drainbamage954: (Default)
!! - UNDER CONSTRUCTION - !!

Currently this site is under construction and renovation. For a long period of time, this journal has not been updated or reviewed, and the maintainer has elected to utilize the month of NOVEMBER 2016 to do some serious clean up.

All stories, entries, and material on this journal will be locked until the end of NOVEMBER 2016. All of my written work can still be found on my Ao3, which is listed as the primary account cats_cradle6766. All EXO fanfic can be found under the pseud drainbamage954 and all BTS fic can be found under troubleseason.

The only available work that will be accessible on this site is 'Not To Notice,' which was written for a commission and therefore will not be taken down under the terms and parameters of that arrangement.


CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE WORKS:

Until further notice, the story 'HOW TO PET: A USER'S GUIDE' has also been taken down and is also only a placeholder on Ao3. There is a full explanation on that entry as well. 'HOW TO PET: A USER'S GUIDE" will not be taken down permanently, and will be restored by January 1st, 2017.

Until further notice, the story 'RIPPLED REFLECTIONS' is only a placeholder, as the fic has been taken down. Full explanation can be found on the placeholder entry on my Ao3. It has also been removed from deerofthedawn exchange. I will be restored by January 1st, 2017, but the full 'ending' will never be written. It is what it is and the story is, ultimately, completed.

Until further notice, the story 'FATUM REX' is only a placeholder, as the fic has been taken down. Full explanation will be found on the actual entry. Yes, permission has been granted by the initial recipient for the fic. Again, please read the actual entry for more details.

Until further notice, the story 'EXPECTATIONS', which was titled 'PHASE ONE: LEARN' written for the 2015 Suholiday exchange has been taken down. A full explanation can be found on the placeholder entry and I will not accept demands for its completion or its return.


Until December 1st, 2016, there will be no activity on this account and all of the material initially listed here is locked. This journal will be updated at the end of November with further information. Until that time, I ask that all communication be directed to my public twitter account in a respectful and appropriate manner.

I appreciate your understanding, patience, and respect by not distributing any copies of the material listed above. As is said here, the journal will be unlocked again in DECEMBER 2016.

Thank you.

- Lonio, Drainbamage954
drainbamage954: (sailing)
Rippled Reflections


Pairing: Luhan/Luhan (side: Luhan/ Joonmyun, Luhan/Kris, Luhan/Jongin, semi Luhan/Yixing, Luhan/Minseok, slight!Luhan/Sehun, past!Luhan/Yixing)
Rating: R
Warnings: selfcest, mental instability, psychological issues, suggestive themes, implied character death, aspects of self harm, manipulation, verbal abuse, possessive tendencies, obsession, mental abuse, hubris, depression, violence.
Summary: The most important person to love in any relationship is oneself.
Words: 143K
Notes: originally written for unponinfinity for the [community profile] deerofdawn  fic exchange. I have avoided posting this because I wanted to go back and finish up editors notes and complete the full version, but have yet to complete that. So, until that is completed, here is the initial version. Proceed a your own risk~



Rippled Reflections

Alas, this fatal image wins my love, as I behold it. )




◦❀◦





The time passed has lessened the looks, the students passing about and the small talk that flows around campus simmering down to nothing. One story fades into another as the events among the young adult lives move from one even to the other, soon forgetting amid the passing of gossip and rapid social interest. The sun gleans off of the windows of the building Luhan is sitting in, legs crossed before him and idly looking out into the fall sunshine, the leaves not yet turned and the sky a crisp clear blue.


He’s late, but the urgency he might once have felt is absent, instead an ease about him as he sits and just enjoys the sunlight. It won't be long until he’s found anyway, the habit of his companion enough that it’ll only be minutes until his phone buzzes against the tabletop, alerting him that his absence is noted and missed. It will pull a smile over his lips, picking up the phone and answering without rush, offering a simple “I’m on my way,” before he leaves at his own pace.


On so many levels, leaving his current location is anything but appealing, just sitting and enjoying the lull between classes when students are all preoccupied.  The soft comfortable chairs of the student service center are forgotten and Luhan can enjoy a moment to himself. It’s the quiet moments like this that are so rarely given to him amid the flurry of too many friends and too many obligations, activities that piled up atop academics and pushed down to bury him into the ground.


The phone, newest model and in a simplistic black case, name engraved on the back in gold, vibrates, buzzing loudly on the table. Luhan’s eyes remain on the windows, tracing through them the skyline against the trees in the distance, the too far away blurred tops blending into a mass of dark against the bright clear blue and pure air. He lets out a long breath, thinking of the conversation awaiting him, the look of brief sadness and the fumbling statements, the forced jokes that aren’t funny anymore and the digs that has his nerves too tight and his shoulders stiffening.


The buzzing stops, name on the display screen switching to notification as Luhan’s eyes follow the miniscule form of a bird, flying into the sky and vanishing behind buildings only to reappear and continue on it’s path that he’ll never know. In an hour, he’ll be in the front row of a lecture, air stuffy and stale, a professor dictating material that Luhan already knows from checking notes and reading material, utterly worthless before him. Luhan will take notes, pen scratching over paper as is mandate and hold himself with a straight back in perfect posture, asking insightful questions that are drilled into him from years of having to learn what is acceptable and what isn’t to say to a professor; someone better than you.


Get the most out of your life, your education, and never leave holes for failure.


So far, Luhan has done a good job of that. So far, nothing significantly abnormal or life threatening has come up. He has new meetings once a week that disrupt the delicate system and schedule he’s kept for years, but he can adjust even if the necessity of it escapes him.


The phone vibrates again and this time, Luhan picks it up with a sigh, not looking at the name as his eyes instead close, bringing the device to his ear and waiting. “Hello?”


“Luhan?” A foolish question considering the caller called his phone, thus expecting to speak with him, the owner of the phone.


“Hello, Joonmyun,” Luhan replies rather than ‘obviously’ which would feel far more satisfying. Polite, present your person as you wish others to see it and as they find the best. Always be the best, the best that he can be and the best that he wants to be. Never settle for less. Never let yourself be anything less.


“I thought-” Joonmyun begins, his voice dropping a bit on the line and Luhan stands up with little rush, taking his time to move from the comfortable chair as he lifts his shoulder satchel to rest over his shoulder. Joonmyun clears his throat over the line. “I thought we were meeting up today.”


“Am I late?” Luhan steps from the windows, the stretching scenery left behind as he turns to leave the Student Service center, walking back towards the library where Joonmyun has been waiting for the past twenty minutes. Maybe more, considering his need for punctuality that has him looking at Luhan in clear annoyance for when he doesn’t operate in the same way.


“No,” Joonmyun says, though there is a sigh to his voice and Luhan’s mouth presses a bit in disappointment.


Joonmyun was perfect. Joonmyun smiled at all the right moments, praised him when Luhan never expected it, making him feel warm and fell in love so fast it swept Luhan under as well. He wasn’t as shy as Luhan thought he’d be, holding hands and paying for dinners and doing everything as he was supposed to, as expected. Joonmyun was perfect, but it didn’t last. With all of the perfection on the surface it was easy to miss the flaws underneath.


Flaws that can never be hidden forever. Flaws that began to drag at Luhan’s mind and keep him awake, shying away from touches and making up excuses with the raw clenching in his throat of strings cutting into his skin, words wrapping around him in a vice until he couldn’t move or breathe. It got to be that Luhan couldn’t answer the phone without his stomach twisting at the thought of being pressed by nagging words and sharp reprimands and prying eyes into him when he just wanted space.


Withdraw. Hide it, never show it, keep it out of the eyes of others and never let them see the times when doubt is the strongest emotion and pain is just on the brink of cracking through his bones.


The spineless nature in which Joonmyun bends to please and satisfy and apologizes when he should stand up straighter and grates on Luhan’s nerves every moment that he spends with him. Dating isn’t a trial, and yet Luhan feels tested every moment that Joonmyun apologizes for his terrible humor and the moments that he realizes he pushed too far. Again.


There comes to a point when even amid all the good, all that Luhan can see is the grotesque and the bad, tainting his hands and masking his vision until his insides clench and he retches.


“I’ll be there soon,” Luhan says, stepping into the autumn sunlight, drawing his sunshades from his bag and sliding them onto his face. He ignores the students around him, striding to the library and to his waiting boyfriend, soon to be no more. He ignores the looks that he gets, the few eyes that linger and keeps his breathing down, his mind calm from what might be spinning over in those heads. He inhales the sharp autumn air, letting the cold bite of the approaching season change strengthen his resolve.


Joonmyun is standing in the front lobby of the library, looking clean and proper and checking his phone with a small worried frown on his handsome face. A face that changes and Luhan has seen morph too many times now to be blinded by any further. He smiles when he looks up and sees Luhan. His smile drops as they sit in the back of the library, hidden by the towers of bookshelves and the hush of the working environment. Luhan watches as his face shadows in confusion and hurt, the small pang in his chest the only indication that he may regret this, hurting Joonmyun like this, until the other man’s eyes fill with tears. It’s all he needs to see to sit back and settle with the weight that fills his stomach.


“I’m sorry,” Luhan says, the response automatic as rivulets of tears begin to slide down Joonmyun’s once perfect face, now twisted and ugly as he crumples in pitiful sadness. Luhan can’t bring himself to reach out, to comfort, instead seeing the sad visage before him as something to never become. It wasn’t working, there was so much missing and while Joonmyun was there, fussing and nagging, a bit pushing though he claimed to do it out of affection, he never loved Luhan. Never.


“No, you’re not,” Joonmyun bites out, looking at him with a harshness in his eyes that has Luhan’s jaw clenching.


He can’t deny it, and so rather than speaking, Luhan stands and turns away.




◦❀◦





“If he should love, deny him what he loves!”





◦❀◦





“I broke up with my boyfriend.”


The pause of a pen has him watching her fingers, curled around the ballpoint poised over a paper. It’s not like this is significant news, nothing interesting or new or special. It doesn't matter much really, none of the questions asked today relevant and the basic formality of ‘how are you?’ redundant.


There is no correct answer for the inquiry when being placed in this room under the sharp eyes of someone with medical placards on the walls speaking of professionalism and reputation all speak for him.


There is no okay, there is only broken and in need of being fixed. Never be broken, never need fixing. Control, contain and self repair, suck it up and hold it in.


“Why?”


She’s watching him, glasses perfectly situation on her nose and eyes hidden behind the lenses, flashing in the border between himself and everything she represents. This isn’t her business, really, Luhan sitting here and following through the methodology of asking and answering questions, being told it will help when there is nothing to be done.


There is nothing wrong.


The sun glints through the haze outside, spilling into the room and reflecting in pools of light over the carpet and the bookcases opposite him, the atmosphere calming and quiet, simplistic and easy. Breathe in and find a sense of peace, speak the mind and reevaluate life and the choices made, the thoughts within his mind and the feelings within his heart that are already too burdensome.


“It wasn’t working,” he answers after the long pause. The longer the pause the less he has to answer of the meaningless questions. Go home, I want to go leave.


“What do you mean?” she asks, pen setting down as she shifts in her chair. Today is a white blouse, navy blazer and khaki skirt. Professional and leaving no space for personal association, something that he can read from her that will bridge the gap between professional and informality.


Nothing lasts, nothing stays and the expectation for something to be as first seen is foolish, most of life folly in and of itself. “I didn’t love him.” He couldn’t love me.


Love, meant to grow and expand, to couple with something internally and resound and accept, which has no conditions and no qualms. Which doesn’t result in disappointment after disappointment and taxing against the mind and soul.


“Did you let yourself?” she asks and Luhan is tired of this already. The minute hand of the clock ticks away the seconds before his skin can once more warm under the sunlight outside and he can breathe without the feeling of suffocation against his lips.


He runs his tongue along the bottom line of his teeth, the ridges of bone against the muscle slightly uneven. “It just wasn’t working out between us.” It never could. It never would.


“I’m sorry to hear that.”


His eyes snap up to hers, shaded behind the thin glasses and the complacent expression and the words that are consoling and often bring relief to others out of compassion doing nothing. Looking for an ulterior purposes, motive, or rationale behind it instead, he settles further into the couch.


“It’s nothing,” he answers, pushing away the feeling of prying discomfort that pulls at his skin. “He wasn’t what he seemed anyway. He’s not what I want.” The tart flavor of arrogance crawls up the back of his throat to settle on his tongue but he keeps his mouth closed, not wanting to correct himself, not to her.


“And what do you want, Luhan?”


Her eyes are steady as they bore into his, the questions all blunt and direct, nothing of the soft phrasing that some others have tried on him, the same sickly sweet compassion and strange hesitancy that too much will push him over the edge. Luhan is stronger than that, he always has been.


He doesn’t answer the question, the answer still vague at the back of his teeth and buried in the deepest recess of his mind under the nets that hold everything together.




◦❀◦





“What strange mistake has intervened betwixt us and our love?”





◦❀◦





“Luhan,” Yixing sighs, arm slung over his shoulder as his brows knit in perplexed contemplation. His voice is raised slightly over the music that is turned to unacceptable volumes and bleeding into ears and out through the windows, people following in it’s wake and weaving together. “It’s been weeks. Just move on.”


“I broke up with him,” Luhan says, easing into his best friends touch without a second thought, Yixing warm against his side, body strong and stable, study where Luhan has come to rest more times than he’ll admit. “It not about moving on.”


“But you’re still alone,” says the young man joining the conversation, handing a blue cup to Luhan with a pointed raise of his eyebrows. Minseok’s lips are already touched with a hint of pink, the mixed liquor staining them with an alluring shine. He’s wearing a plain white tee tonight, casual but the dark blue blazer over it gives him a sophisticated look, alluring and impressive with his hair pushed back. “You hate being alone for this long.”


Luhan accepts the cup without thanks, taking a sip of the mess of liquid within, the poignant slur of alcohol all mixed together blurring out anything distinct aside from the future of blurred vision and thoughts. “Two weeks is hardly a long time,” he says, leaning a bit more into Yixing, smirking a bit as his friend tips a bit, almost losing his balance. Yixing shoves him back, lightly, and steadies them, a reassuring pressure against him, a comfortable weight around him. “You’ve been single for a lot longer. We all have.”


“I’m just saying,” Minseok says, shrugging before he turns to their surroundings, eyes drifting over to the rest of the room. The couches are all filled, the tables covered in messes of cups and plates and bottles of alcohol half finished, some supporting people and their inability to remain standing. The too sweet and sick taste of alcohol lingers on Luhan’s tongue before he takes another sip. “It’s not like Joonmyun was the end of the world.”


“I never said he was,” Luhan says, speaking more into his cup than to Minseok, not wanting to meet his eyes as his mind drags over the topic of his ex, the eyes which always held too much and never spoke enough to him except when it dug too deep and raw. “Look, we broke up. I’m not going to hook up, what’s the big deal? It’s just a party and just a weekend. You go find someone if you’re so eager to match make tonight.”


Minseok’s eyebrows raise, Yixing turning to look at him, fingers pressing into Luhan’s shoulder as he takes another drink, trying to swallow down the irrational irritation. “Fine,” Minseok says as Yixing’s face creases in the beginnings of concern. “I guess I’ll see you around then.”


The music is too loud, as it always is and Luhan’s head is pounding from a long week, muscles aching slightly from taking extra hours at the gym, the words from classes and his texts flashing before his eyes too. The swell of talking, punctuated by shouting has his eyes traveling over the mass of people before him, some he knows, most he’s never seen before.


The look on Yixing’s face when he turns to him is far more concerned than Luhan feels he has the energy for now when he can begin to feel the light rush in his veins and his tongue feels too sweet and heavy in his mouth. “Another drink?” Luhan suggests, not wanting for Yixing to corner him.


He doesn’t have the energy tonight.


“Are you sure you’re even supposed to be drinking?” Yixing asks, immediately snapping against Luhan’s nerves as his eyes narrow.


“Why wouldn’t I be able to drink?” he asks, pausing as he made to draw his arm from Yixing, sense sharpening on his now lightly blushing friend, the rouge against his cheeks having nothing to do with the alcohol pounding along with his blood and polluting his body. “What’s wrong with me that I can’t drink?”


Yixing eye’s widen as Luhan takes a sharp step back. “There’s nothing wrong with you,” he says, following as Luhan makes towards the kitchen, the people crowded and packed like bees in a hive, too drunk or uncaring to move when he approaches. He weaves between them, his skin itching and the slosh in his stomach from the drink Minseok had given him reminding him of the dinner he had skipped. “I never said there was something wrong with you.”


“Good,” Luhan says, not looking at Yixing. The cool handle of the ladle in his hands grabs his focus, scooping the bright red liquid into his cup and bringing it to his lips. He takes a long drink before grabbing Yixing’s cup and filling it as well. “There’s nothing wrong with me,” he says, looking at the cup with a small concentrated from, pushing down the crawl up his chest as the alcohol slides down.


The purse of Yixing’s lips is all Luhan sees before the other is stepping away, muttering about checking on something and returning soon. “Take care of yourself, yeah?” he says, a hand resting gently at the small of Luhan’s back as he passes, leaning in and his breath ghosts over the back of Luhan’s neck.


Flinching slightly, Luhan turns to meet his eyes, the usually glazed and carefree cast to them absent. “I’m fine,” he says, perhaps with a bit more force than necessary.


Yixing just nods, a slow dip of the head before his hand drops from Luhan’s waist, the warmth receding as he pulls away, the skin at the back of Luhan’s neck tingling. “I’ll be right back,” he murmurs, turning away, eyes dropping as he slips from Luhan, weaving and disappearing into the mass of people.


The lights of the kitchen are too bright, the fluorescent bulbs harsh against his eyes and making the tiles of the floor look even more filthy than they are, the overuse and lack of proper sanitation setting his teeth on edge. The sink is piled with dishes, the people all milling in the area seeming uncaring as to the state of the room and Luhan nearly cringes as he turns back to claim his cup. Instead, he finds an empty cup waiting, hand holding it to him and his eyes flicker up, surprised blooming in him as he sees a tentative smile on a handsome face.


“Fill me up?” the stranger asks, eyes warm as he looks down at Luhan. He’s wearing a sports coat, his blond hair pushed back from his face as he waits for a reply. He smiles, perfect teeth white and flashing gums behind pink lips and Luhan wets his lips.


Yixing has vanished somewhere, Minseok lost somewhere in the depths of this house and probably forsaken him for the next few hours. His home waits with his mother, asleep in her bed and himself absent for the weekend, dorm room vacant and lonely in darkness. The only comforts offered in his own abode are his own reflection gazing back at him, while here he can drown amid new faces and rambling conversations.


The smile given to him is warm, slightly hesitant but the man still stands there, waiting for him. “Sure,” Luhan says, not thinking further as he reaches out, taking the cup and quickly filling the cup, handing it back to him. He looks back up to meet those eyes still on him, the man not walking away. “Anything else?”


It’s hard to lean against the counter, but the guy tries anyway, a light pink spreading over his cheeks as he fumbles slightly and then grins at Luhan rather than getting flustered. Luhan finds himself smiling. “What’s your name?”


A sip of the red liquid is drawn out, Luhan glancing to his side where Yixing has stepped back, gone now amid the nameless bodies and faces that sway to the music and with balance unsteady. He will find him later, think about talking, maybe checking on him, knowing how terrible Yixing is with his liquor. Absent now, however, and the lack of supervision has Luhan’s nerves ready to jump, the slight thrill running through him that has nothing to do with the liquor.


So it is with a smile that Luhan turns back, feeling less on edge as he is met with the waiting and expectantly warm smile of the other man and holds out the hand not holding his drink. “Luhan,” he says, leaning in a bit and feeling a small hint of satisfaction when the other man’s eyes widen and he takes in a small breath. “What about you?”


“I have a few names,” the guy says, his eyes dancing as they fix on Luhan, hand soft and easy as he takes Luhan’s and shakes it, not letting go immediately, his large fingers dwarfing Luhan’s and something about it sets a curl to the pit of his stomach. He leans in, as if sharing a secret or something only they two can know. It has the corner of Luhan’s mouth twitching in amusement. Childish, silly but endearing in it’s own way. “But you can call me Yifan.”


“Yifan,” Luhan repeats the name, watching as the smile on the other’s face broadens. The name is familiar, Luhan having heard of a student in his same year under the name but never having met him before. He wonders if this is the same quiet but kind hearted person he’s heard others talk about, Yixing laugh about as he recounts the next thing he’s done. He smiles, finally letting his hand drop from Yifan’s as Yixing steps back further, separating himself. “Nice to meet you.”


A smile spreads over Luhan’s lips, mouth opening to ask Yifan something, anything, try to push and see how far he wants to take this conversation, when a loud yell startles him, head jerking to the side. Face beaming and dimples pressed deep into his cheeks, Yixing steps out from between two people. It takes Luhan a moment before he realizes he’s not looking at him, instead meeting the eyes of Yifan as he opens his arms and Luhan’s eyes widen as the two hug.


“I didn’t think you were coming tonight,” Yixing says beaming as he pulls away and looks up at the taller man, being met with a warm and friendly smile. “Something about parties not being your style.” He laughs, loud and high and full of life as Luhan watches and feels slightly disconnected.


The laugh Yifan lets out seems to come from his center, spilling out and it’s nice, warm and real and the humor lights up his face. “You were pretty convincing though, with all those texts.”


Luhan hadn’t seen Yixing on his phone the whole evening. He widens his eyes in surprise as Yixing’s catch his. “Sorry,” Yixing says, stepping up and resting a hand at Luhan’s elbow, smiling at Yifan. “Luhan, this is my friend Yifan, from one of my poli-sci classes last year.” He smiles, turning to Yifan. “Yifan, this is-“


“We just met, actually,” Luhan cuts Yixing off, earning a surprised look from his best friend, looking to Yifan and smiling, a small note of satisfaction curling in his chest when Yifan’s eyes meet his and glint. Yixing’s eyebrows raise.


“Oh, good,” Yixing says as Yifan turns back to him. “I was hoping you two might,” his eyes flicker to Luhan for a moment and Luhan doesn’t have the time to read them before they’re back on Yifan, Yixing smiling brightly, “have something to talk about.” When Yixing looks back to him, his eyes have adopted the light glaze to them that he often sports. “Lucky that you met him.”


With eyes that rest on Luhan and not Yixing, Yifan smiles, manner calm and reassuring. “Yeah,” he says, teeth flashing in a gorgeous smile that has that curling sensation twisting in Luhan’s chest again. He takes another sip of his drink. “I’d say I’m pretty lucky.”


Luhan doesn’t miss the way his eyes crinkle and dance, the way he shifts his weight nor the way Yixing’s eyes flicker between them. He smiles, stepping a bit closer and feeling the long waited spread of warmth through him resurge, the pleasant hum from being near eyes that appreciate sinking into him. “Lucky guy.”


Yifan doesn’t talk much, instead picking and choosing between his words, a dance of a smile always around his lips and, despite being so tall and broad, standing out a bit with his strong features and impressive height, he’s amazingly careful. He speaks with Yixing like an old friend, laughing for a bit as his hand drifts to brush against Luhan’s side hesitantly and careful of him. Yixing leaves them after a while, wandering off and looking a bit unbalanced but brushing off the concerned words of Yifan as he departs. Luhan imagines him off to go do something more important, pressing or seeing more of the many friends he seems to pull from the woodwork of the house.


Through the mess of college students wavering between the edges of sobriety and the fog that swims in their minds, Luhan’s cup goes missing and he sits drinking in the way Yifan’s hands move as he speaks, the way his tongue curls around words. The way his eyes darken and linger as they rest on his lips.


From across the room, leaning against one of the walls by the windows, drink in hand and jacket stark and nearly black against the white of his shirt and the wall behind him, Minseok watches him with eyes that flicker. Luhan catches his eye, smirking a bit at the look within them. Minseok is alone, which is less than Luhan can say about himself, turning to Yifan to talk, telling him about his studies, his academic research and specific projects, all self designed within his curriculum. Tells him about his home, his talents and hobbies and laughs when Yifan asks him to sing, smiling and teasing as his hand comes to brush, resting hesitantly just touching his knee.


A tug of a smile, plays over his lips as he settles back, warm and pleasant on the couch and looks at Yifan, at how he watches him and listens to him, how he’s warm and kind. Yixing had told him a bit, his reputation preceding him of the athlete who changed directions to go into academics rather than stardom.


All too soon, Yixing is curling to Luhan’s other side, mumbling something about sleep and tucking himself under Luhan’s arm, earning an amused smile from Yifan as Luhan tries to shove him off. “Time to go home,” Minseok says, coming to the scene and tugging Yixing up, slinging the other man’s arm around his shoulders as he throws Luhan a significant look. “You too.”


At the door of the house, the party thinned out and leaving only a few left, the sharp nip of the autumn air against his skin, Luhan turns to Yifan and is met with a hand held out to him. “What?”


“I want to give you my number,” Yifan says, a light pink on his cheeks as he watches him, that same intrigue and warmth and comfort about him that pulls at Luhan to stay despite how Minseok is watching him and Yixing is mumbling in a slur of Chinese behind him.


“Why?” Luhan asks even as his hands dig in his pocket for his phone, the smooth immaculate black case cool against his fingers.


“So you can call me tomorrow when you’re free,” Yifan says, accepting Luhan’s phone with surprising delicacy, long thin fingers, swiftly flying over the flat touch screen and a moment later he hands the phone back to Luhan. On the screen is flashing a name and number. Looking up, he sees Yifan smiling, a playful edge to it as he holds up his own phone and swipes the answer bar. Luhan watches in slight disbelieving amusement as Yifan brings the phone to his ear.


Luhan mimics the gesture unconsciously. “And now I can call you,” Yifan’s says, voice duplicated in the speaker by Luhan’s ear.


A surprised laugh bursts from his throat, Luhan letting himself laugh as Yifan’s smile grows, watching him and the interest on his face is written plainly for Luhan to see. Not that he was ever in doubt, the soft touches and motions, attentive listening through the evening enough. It makes Yifan’s smile brighten, pleased as the hand holding his phone to his ear drops, eyes on Luhan.


“I’ll see you around,” Luhan says, stepping from the porch and walking down the steps, back towards campus, his empty dorm room and his friends waiting just feet away, one watchful and attentive and the other gone for the evening.


“Is that a promise?” Yifan asks, not moving as he watches Luhan leave.


Luhan simply smiles back at him, beautiful in the night as the pleasant curl in his chest expands, spreading through him at the look given to him. “You’ll find out tomorrow.”




◦❀◦





“What do you want to talk about today?”


It's always so casual, as if Luhan sitting there on the sofa is just a light choice of life, as if this isn’t a social symbol for sickness. “I don’t know,” he answers, picking at the fraying seam of his jeans, ignoring the woman before him and her steady calculating eyes, watching him and judging.


Always judging. Everyone is judging him. It never stops, never helps and never changes, just being seen and assumed as weak because of his looks despite how he is anything but. The burden of being compartmentalized when he is anything but what images depict.


"I don't know what I want to talk about?" Why is the decision up to him in the first place? The money a foolish waste when the questions are only to get him to talk about things he never wants to.


Wasting breath when he can answer his own questions, when talking never helps but only makes it worse, the excess of verbal words doing nothing but to spin back to him and spiral out of control. Normal answers are the only things which he has trained himself for, giving what is wanted and keeping what is important.


Don't let them take it. All that is his keep close and keep at the best that it can be.


"What about your friends?"


No.


"School?"


No.


"Your family?"


"Is this some sort of interview?" he asks, the questions beginning to wear on his nerves, the prying and the too calm demeanor beginning to slide uncomfortably under his skin, digging into him. "If I don't want to talk about something, then why do I have to?"


"Luhan." The clipboard is placed down, the pen resting perfectly atop with precision that comes only from intentional practice. "This isn't a place where you have to feel like you can't talk. This is a safe place, nothing you say will be used against you. You don't have to be scared here."


"Why would I be scared?" he snaps, already on edge, the too soft and soothing patronizing tone sending his teeth on edge. He hates being here, hates sitting here and feeling victimized when he's not, just wanting to get out and ignore the foolish tactics that he spins in his head and doesn't want to think of the purpose behind. "What is there to be scared about?"


"Me," is the simple answer. "What I might think of you if you tell me what you really think."


"I think this is stupid," he says, the walls which offer bland simplicity, the perfectly level and positioned cabinet and book shelf, even the couch, desk, and chair that she's sitting in. It's all organized in some sort of horrific feng shui methodology meant to sooth and offer comfort and serenity and Luhan just wants to tear it apart. It's too fixed, too simple and he breaths through his nose to keep from letting himself get worked up.


"Okay," is the infuriatingly calm answer. "Why?"


"Because I don't see the point of me talking about my life and myself." Stating facts and logic. There is no reason for him to be here. There is no reason for most of the things that has happened. There is no rationale behind the painting of red against white and empty promises. "What point is there for me to tell you about my last relationship or know what I had for breakfast. Does it matter to you that I work out or hate sweets?"


"Everything matters," she says, that same even and bland tone that suggest nothing out of the ordinary and nothing for him to learn from, only emptiness. He resists balling his hands into fists. "All of it matters because it's all about you."


Eyes close and he breathes in, trying to sort through the slight rushing in his ears and the sense of humiliation and insignificance that begins to throb with every beat of his heart. Job. This is her job. "I am majoring in Business," he says, voice calm and level as he focuses on the feeling of his jeans under his fingertips. "I'm going to graduate in a year in the top ten percentile."


"Impressive," she responds. The clipboard is back in her lap, pretty manicured hands, fingernails painted crimson, holding the pen carefully as she writes, a smooth flowing script. Her hair is back today, pulled from her face into a high bun placed perfectly atop her head, glasses on her nose perfect as usual. "Not many people can talk about achievements like that."


"I work hard." Years and hours of dedication and perseverance, fighting through school and taunting and the turning away of the attention he wanted the most. Indifference. "It's what you need to succeed. That and luck."


"What will you do after that?" she asks, watching easily and pen twirling in her fingers. Black blazer today and a white blouse, a necklace of pearls hanging around her neck to match the studs in her ears. She looks pretty. "Do you have any plans after university?"


"Get a job," Luhan answers, at this point automatic. Get a job, get a home, please his boss and charm his coworkers, prove he's the best by being himself and fighting until he is where he belongs. Get a job, succeed. Get a house, succeed. Find someone to be with and make them the best to match himself and do everything he wants with his life.


"That's a pretty good idea."


"It's necessary."


"Is it what you want?" He drops his eyes, focusing on the sunlight streaming through the window that splays over the carpet, lighting it cold and fading out the crimson. "Luhan?" Breath in as the dust particles dance in the light, weightless in the air and supported by nothing, holding their own form and shape. Mindless nothing.


"Yes." The correct answer.


He's been trained well, the reply enough that he believes it himself as he watches the dust dance in the sunlight and the clock on the wall ticks past the minutes in a soft reminder of the time that counts down until his breath leaves his body.




◦❀◦





Yixing is smiling at him, obviously pleased as he sits down at lunch. It's cloudy outside, and the other boys mood is inexplicably happy aside from Luhan knowing Yixing has the strange habit of being persistently positive about life to the point of being nauseating.


"What?" he asks, setting down a salad and his cola, grabbing a wet napkin from the small pack he carries with him in his bag. "You look like you just won a bet."


"I knew you'd like him," Yixing says, self satisfied smile on his lips as he looks at Luhan and practically beams.


“Who?” Luhan asks, sitting down with a frown, not sure who Yixing is talking about, his phone resting on the table and flashing occasionally, just as it has been all day, all past few days, buzzing gently against the wooden surface. It brings a warmth to the pit of Luhan’s stomach, making him eased.


“Yifan,” Yixing says the name as if it’s obvious. “I knew you’d like him.” Luhan blinks, surprised. “He’s a really good guy and you two look good together.”


Luhan tries to scoff it off, the involvement of Yixing in this a little strange, his mind flashing to when Yixing’s mouth never smiled like it does now. “Of course we look good together,” he says, trying to laugh it off. “Anyone looks good when they’re with me.”


“Or horrible,” Yixing laughs, watching as Luhan shakes his head, fork piercing into his salad and his phone buzzes lightly on the table beside him. “Considering you’re...” Luhan’s eyes flicker up to him, the harder note in the them spreading over his shoulders as they stiffen, Yixing’s smile faltering into a look of semi-apology. “You.”


“What are you talking about?” Minseok asks, dropping into the seat beside Luhan easily and picking up Luhan’s buzzing phone. A brief flash of panic spiking through him, Luhan makes a grab for the phone, frowning as Minseok holds it out of his reach with a pointed look. “What?”


“Luhan’s newest lover,” Yixing teases, smiling blithely across the table and Luhan sneers at him briefly before holding his hand out for his phone, his eyes on the device resting in Minseok’s hands.


The curl of Minseok’s lip at him has Luhan’s stomach clenching a bit, wanting to just snatch the phone back and ignore them both, drown himself in the unread messages from someone else who won’t be bothering him so much. The curling irritation at the center of his chest begins to crawl up, and he frowns at Minseok’s now full blown smile. “Phone, please.”


“Wow,” Minseok says, laughing a bit as he hands Luhan the phone, device instantly checked over as Luhan turns from his friends, pushing his hair from his face fastidiously and tongue dragging over his lips anxiously. “Did he actually just say please?”


“Ears don’t lie,” Yixing says, smiling pleasantly as he watches Luhan, fingers gently playing with his fork.


“Shut up,” Luhan grumbles automatically, scrolling through the list of messages, calming down at the flashing names, friends, his mother, a few notifications and one name repeated over and over with old fashioned emoticons from four years ago that clash terribly with the flattery. It’s cute, in a sort of funny way, where Luhan smiles even if he doesn’t mean to do so blatantly. “It got you to give it back.”


“I would have given it back anyway,” Minseok says, leaning to read over his shoulder, arm draping over him and Luhan tenses. He nearly jerks it away, from prying eyes and the want for privacy creeping along him in irritation but he stays still, letting Minseok lean on him, watch him as he scrolls past the messages. “Jeez, that’s a lot of texts.”


“Try hard,” Yixing says with a laugh and it somehow warms Luhan rather than bother him. The screen goes black on his phone, reflecting himself and he idly checks the mirror version of himself, looking for imperfections and flaws in his face or visage. He smiles, the expression looking back at him as he finds none and Minseok scoffs, pulling back.


“He seemed nice,” Luhan says, idly, going back to his salad and picking at it. He thinks of the messages, streaming down the screen of his phone and all just soft and gentle comments. It’s cute.


“He is,” Yixing adds and Luhan looks up, the suspicion he had from when Yixing had ‘introduced’ them back on Saturday. Yixing’s eyes flicker, the look of guilt and speaking what Luhan expected shining in them. He finds he doesn’t mind it as much as he might have though, instead the scowl on his face mostly there out of habit. “Sorry.”


“It’s fine,” Luhan says, sitting back and abandoning his salad, earning a small frown from Minseok that he ignores. The food at the school was always sub par, one of the reasons he prefers to eat at home, on the weekends he goes and visits, pressing a kiss to his mother’s cheek and being met with formal affection. “You don’t have the worst taste.”


“Is this the same guy from Saturday then?” Minseok asks, looking at him with a newer interest, leaning over his plate as he studies Luhan.


“Yifan, yeah,” Luhan says casually, sitting back in his chair, ignoring Minseok and the calculating and slightly hard look from his friend. He bites back the smile, enjoying the sense of distrust, of over placed concern and wariness at someone else with Luhan. “He wants to get dinner.”


“When?” Minseok asks as Yixing’s phone pings at an arrived message and he busies himself, pretty thin fingers dancing over the keypad.


Classes this week are harder, the students chattering in the mess hall a light buzz against Luhan’s thoughts as he mulls them over, his schedule and his plans. He has some commitments, but commitments are easily pushed to another date. “Tonight.”


The salad remains untouched on the table, greens half picked over and left for nothing. It wasn’t great and Luhan doesn’t feel the need to bother with finishing it. Minseok’s frown deepens. “I thought we were meeting in the library tonight. To work.”


A schedule that can easily be changed. Leaning a bit over the table, Luhan fixes Minseok with an imploring look, a light frown pulling at his lips. "Can we move it?" he asks, tilting his head and biting gently at his lip at Minseok, feeling that small ping of satisfaction as Minseok's expression falters and he sighs, sitting back. Luhan grins, knowing he's won.


Yifan is waiting for him outside of his building when Luhan comes down, smiling at the other man, hands shoved into the pockets of another sports jacket, shoulders broad and a handsome smile on his face. "I'm glad you could come out tonight, Luhan," he says, stepping close and the same smile of gentility on his lips. "I was beginning to wonder if you'd ever be free."


"I made time," Luhan says, not minding when their feet are almost so close walking they run the danger of tangling. He doesn't mind that Yifan listens more than speaks tonight, that he sits and smile as Luhan talks, leading the conversation and getting laughter in response for his humor. Luhan likes it, how Yifan finds him funny. He likes the way that Yifan looks at him, the way he talks gently and laughs foolishly, his humor abstract at best but more and more endearing. Luhan likes how comfortable it is to spend time with him, the stronger, larger man far softer than Luhan might have expected from his initial confident introduction.


"You're really amazing," Yifan says, walking with their hands brushing after dinner and after sitting with coffee for a while, just talking and learning more and more about each other. Luhan smiles, breathing in deep the fresh air and warm in his jacket, warmer with Yifan beside him. He looks up at Yifan, his blond hair softer about his face tonight but features no less striking as he walks along the sidewalk, close and comforting.


"Am I?" Luhan asks, teasing just slightly at the edge of his question, watching Yifan keenly to see if he catches onto the quip. Instead of a quick rebuttal,which he may have expected in any other circumstance, Minseok shooting him down without batting an eye before laughing and exchanging a look or Yixing who mimics his proclamation with a definite note of sarcasm or flippancy, Yifan looks at him seriously, meeting his eyes. It makes Luhan's heart jump in his chest, the sincerity in his eyes and the lines of his face speaking of nothing but truths and honesty.


"You are," Yifan tells him, the warm brush of his fingers over the back of Luhan's hand not unwelcome. As a light pink begins to dust over the smooth skin of Yifan's cheeks, Luhan smiles, the pleasant curl in his chest expanding out and making him feel alive and full, lacing his hand with Yifan's without hesitation.


"Thank you," he says, and means it.


The night sky is clear above the lines of trees and buildings, a vast expanse of black, the pinpricks of light flickering as stars look down on the earth and observe all that comes and goes. The light of the moon mingles with the streetlights that illuminate soft the area of the campus, casting a faint warm yellow glow about the browning grass and the plants still clinging to the last remnants of summer and warmth. Luhan's eyes slip closed as his hands fist in the front of Yifan's sports jacket, leaning up and gently pulling the other forward, wanting to laugh at the surprised look on Yifan's face as he bends down, apparently disbelieving, before their lips press in a silent kiss.


The pleasant hum and tingle against Luhan's lips doesn't leave him, nor the smile that graces them as he turns after a soft goodnight, ascending to his dorm room to retire for the evening and mull over the evening spent in the company of a man now no longer a stranger. The room seems warmer though the bed cold and empty as Luhan enters, his eyes wincing at the bright light before falling on his reflection in the large mirror in the corner. His hair is slightly mussed, out of place from when Yifan's fingers had brushed through it carefully as he had cradled Luhan's jaw in his hands and tilted his head just a little further into the kiss.


He smiles, the reflection in the mirror flashing it back to him as a feeling of contented calm spreads through him.




○❂○





78 . 82 . 103 .

All people ever talk about are their relationships lately. It’s like immediately upon meeting someone all they care about is whether you’re dating, who you’re dating, what the story is behind it and how everything is. It’s always about stories, what can they know about your life, about you, about me, about why I’m dating them and how I met them.


It’s kind of stupid, because everyone really is just living vicariously through other people, listening to these stories, or they’re just asking to occupy the time; to make you happy when honestly I don’t give a shit if you know about my love life or not. But there it is, what’s new? What’s happening in your life? How is your mother? How are your friends? How are your studies going? Are you still seeing that girl you did when you followed what other people told you or did you finally settle down with that boy like we never understood?


It shouldn’t really matter to other people what the hell I do with my life. It’s my life. I want to do what I want to do and choose to do what it is I want to do. If you don’t like it, that’s your own damn problem and leave me the fuck alone.


I don’t want to tell you all the stuff that’s going on with me. I’ll tell you anything else, whatever it is you want. Fuck, I’ll tell you why I never talk about my dad and only mention that my mother is healthy if you really want to hear the story but I don’t think anyone gives a shit.


No one likes a boring and tragic and filthy story like that. They want something to sink their teeth into, that they can gossip about, something that has a good ending that can keep going.


I don't give a shit that I give you a good story, just by standing here as you ask what happened last month. That’s not what’s important. I’m what’s important, so ask about me and stop trying to make yourself feel more informed by asking who I’m fucking or not.





◦❀◦





The constant smiling over the table is a bit unsettling, not disturbing the quiet of the library but the blatant disregard of anything remotely academic and all focus directed at him has the hair rising at the back of his neck. Looking up, nestled in the stacks and hidden from the majority of the libraries’ occupants, Luhan widens his eyes at Yixing significantly.


what?


If anything, Yixing’s smile gets bigger, his eyes flickering to the side of Luhan on the comfortable chairs, often forgotten in the back of the main levels of the atrium. The slide of eyes has Luhan’s chest clenching, fingers twitching and a light squeeze responds, quiet and gently reassuring and sending that flutter back into the base of his ribs. Yixing’s eyes glint in merriment and Luhan, after a moment, squeezes back slowly.


It’s been strange, the past few weeks, as October pulls over the campus with the bright flashes of leaves changing in the brilliant reds, yellows and oranges that set fire to the trees and the skyline. It’s been strange not because of the seasons change but because of the sudden new presence that has taken up residence in most of Luhan’s time, a quiet but reassuring figure that smiles with him and at him and whose hands curl around his almost instinctively.


Yixing’s eyes meet his over the table between them, strewn with books and he mouths “you’re cute” to him with his dimples pressed into his cheeks. His eyes flicker to Yifan, seated beside Luhan, hand wrapped easily around his and holding, relaxed as he reads over one of the books for his literature classes. He has a pair of glasses resting gently on his nose, some that Luhan knows are there for fashion more than for practical purposes, his bottom lip gently pulled at by his teeth as he remains absorbed in his reading.


It’s been a few weeks, just over a month, enough for a first date to rapidly roll into three, laughter and conversation coming easy with the soft press of lips in between and Luhan hadn’t hesitated when Yifan had asked for the word ‘boyfriend’ which spoke of exclusivity and made Luhan smile to himself as the thought passed through his mind randomly during the day. It feels natural, easy and pleasant to sit here with his best friend far more productive at doodling all over his notebook than dedicating any proper time to study with Yifan beside him, knowing he could just lean over and press his lips to those high cheekbones.


It’s been a few weeks, and it’s so comfortable it feels like longer, like it could stretch on at the same pace and progression and Luhan would let himself be swallowed around it and pulled in until he forgot there was anything else but the feeling of Yifan’s lips on his and his fingers brushing his hair from his face with a small smile.


The books on the table are too many, the number of classes far less than the subjects being studied at the moment, instead all done in preparation, following schedules and plans and keeping ahead. In his lap, Luhan has open his religious theory text, business books resting on the table before him and waiting for attention. His shirt smells vaguely of Yifan’s cologne, or perhaps it’s simply Yifan beside him, permeating into Luhan’s senses just as he has his life with Yixing smiling at them whenever he sees them.


Luhan’s eyes flicker up, resting on his best friend as Yixing continues to scrawl all over his book, tongue poking from his mouth with a frown creasing his brows. He watches as Yixing’s fingers press against the side of the pen, pushing it down and forming dark lines that sweep and connect on the white paper and wonders, for once, what he’s thinking. It had been easier, before, to know exactly what Yixing was thinking, reading his mind almost and no words needing to pass between them. It was much easier before, when Yixing didn’t do things like set him up on dates and instead was the one Luhan knew was wrapping his arms around his waist and laughing too loudly at.


Before it changed from Luhan and Yixing to Luhan and Minseok and Yixing and then all three of them seemed to branch around and shift and fade like passing tides. Before Luhan’s hand was held and comfortable and fingers fit around his own, hands large and holding him so carefully, soft smiles and warmth that sunk into his skin while Yixing smiled at him and Luhan couldn’t understand.


“Hey,” has him jumping, startling at the sound and jerking to look to the side, feeling his heart flutter at the surprise and noting the amused line of Yifan’s mouth as it curves to the side.


“Hey,” Luhan replies, keeping his voice quiet with respect for the setting. Keep quiet and respect, obey and always do as is told, as is expected. They’ve been here for a few hours, another hour more and Minseok will join them along with Yifan’s friend Jongdae. Luhan’s sphere of social connections slowly branching in a web of connections that he never expected to occur.


“You okay?” Yifan asks, leaning closer, his thumb running along the back of Luhan’s hand soothingly and making the skin tingle. “You look a little spaced out.” His thumb begins to press in a gentle circle and his breath smells of mint from the gum Yixing had pulled out earlier. “Take a break?”


“Fine,” Luhan says, offering him a smile that is genuine as he settles into this, into how the dynamic has developed, into how it is to be around Yifan. Quieter, softer and easy. He sighs, leaning in to press a swift kiss to the corner of Yifan’s mouth before he pulls back, shifting to rest his head, pillowing against Yifan’s shoulder, the padding of his sports jacket comfortable. “I’m fine.”


Fine seems to summarize just about everything Luhan feels, can see, and sense from the situation. Fine is about the most encompassing term for everything this has been, everything that Yifan is and everything they are together.


He’s fine.


They’re fine.


Yixing’s pen scratches over the paper, his tongue still stuck out and Luhan yawns, resting with a small crease between his brows as the word ‘fine’ begins to settle against his mind and crawl into the recesses of his thoughts.


Fine.




◦❀◦





The hallway opens, just as it always does to the front foyer, the staircase leading upstairs to the bedrooms with the banister polished and leading up. The lights are on, warm and welcoming and the floor clean and polished, the large oriental rug stretching over the floor, lush and thick, warm over the cold wooden floor. It’s a gorgeous house, older and with the walls painted a clean white.


It smells faintly of lavender, the dried flowers arranged about the house, giving it a clean smell and soft, gentle as it seeps into the air and settles along the grand dark wooden furniture. It’s welcoming, the quiet and the familiar stretch of the building exactly as it has been for over twenty years.


Ignoring the light on at the end of the hall, lighting the way to the living room and kitchen, Luhan makes his way up the stairs, turning left down the hall as he walks along the open walkway to his old room, still just as he left it. Perfectly clean and organized, his bed is made, shaking slightly as he drops his bag on it and sighs, looking around and checking his appearance in the mirror.


With a frown, he tries to make his hair rest properly, knowing that if it doesn’t she’ll fuss. His hand pauses, pushing back his bangs from his face as his frown stills, his eyes lingering on his own in the mirror, thoughts mulling rapidly. She is going to fuss anyway.


The light sound of Schubert wafts about the room like the faint aroma of lavender, mixed with the heavier scent of rose, the radio just by the window playing a CD that should have long been scratched and useless. His mother sits at the desk in the center of the room, her back turned to him and typing carefully at the laptop before her, spine straight and posture perfect.


The exact picture of proper representation and behavior, everything one would see and respect and understand is composed and balanced. Luhan clears his throat.


With a brilliant smile, his mother turns to him, her lips stretched in a well practiced gleam of white teeth. “You’re home,” she says, standing in a sweep of her long dress as she opens her arms to her only son. Immediately, her hands are at his face, pushing back his hair and checking him over, eyes sweeping in hasty critical examination as she tuts gently at him.


“You’re not eating enough,” is the second thing she says as her hand comes to rest gently at his shoulder.


Luhan smiles at her, relaxed and composed as he tries to let himself breathe easy in the comfort of his own him. “School food,” he says and she lets out a huff of a laugh.


“That’s no excuse,” she says, brushing past him. “Beggars can’t be choosers, Luhan, and neither can you.” She flashes him a look over her shoulder. “Even if you have the luxury of choosing.” Luhan simply bows his head in consent, knowing better than to open his mouth and disagree with her.


The number one rule of the house, for as long as he can remember, his mother has been the head. There is never argument, never conflict and only the well behaved acceptance of what her wishes were, her standards were, and her word and advice had to be heeded and abided by at all costs. Luhan, a bright energetic boy, learned very early that soccer star dreams were not practical no matter how good he was. He learned to focus his energy on other things; mathematics, biology and astronomy.


He learned that crying after tripping down the stairs did nothing to heal his wounds and only made his throat raw and face itchy with salt and tears. He learned to be quiet, to hold himself so everyone saw him but no one questioned him.


His mother fusses, as all mothers do, asking questions about his life at school, scolding him for not coming home in the past few weeks and frowning in disapproval when Luhan explains being busy with socialization and academics.


“Aren’t you keeping track of your studies?” she asks, seated in her customary place at the head of the table, fingers gently tapping against the rim of a wine glass as Luhan sits just to her right, subordinate and the second place of the household.


Luhan laughs, the sound refined and controlled as he sits back. “Of course I am,” he tells her, meeting her inquiring gaze confidently. “I’m always keeping on track of my studies. I’ve just become busier as of late.”


“With what?”


Luhan lips press, his tongue poking out to wet them as for a brief moment the dinner that his mother had laid out settles uncomfortable in his stomach. “I’m in a relationship.” He watches, waiting and holding himself steady, back straight, posture correct and not showing the slight nervousness that admitting that entails.


The flicker of the candles reflects on the glass that slowly rotates in his mother’s hand, glinting through the crystal. Her eyes don’t meet his, instead fixed on the flickering candles at the center of the table, the silver that has begun to streak through her black hair offering her the air of sophisticated age. “Oh?”


The urge to clear his throat is extremely strong as Luhan doesn’t move, withdraw from his mother and her evaluation, her thoughts. He refrains from doing so, swallowing instead and pushing down the slight tremor in his nerves at the look in his mother’s eyes. “Yes,” he answers. “I am. We’ve been together for about a month and a half.”


“I see,” his mother says, her eyes rising to gaze into the flames of the candles and not at her son as she raises her glass to her lips. “And are you happy with it?”


It.


The is little interest on her face, far less than he remembers seeing on Yixing’s mothers face when he had been introduced, all smiles and welcoming fussing hands. He swallows again, the feeling of having to explain himself, to tell her why this was something he could do, should do rising up the back of his throat like bile.


“Yes,” he answers, feeling sour and tainted. He wants to cough, to get the catch out of his throat as he sits in the suffocating silence that shrouds them. “He’s very-“ her eyes flicker to him finally, one brow rising “-kind. You would like him.” The tightness around his lungs increases, the fixed look of his mother’s eyes on him searing against his skin. “He’s in the same year as me; a literature major, looking to go into publishing.” Names. Names in importance. His mind spins as his breath shortens and he fights to keep the surge down. “He’s had a lot of internships at the firms in the city, probably going to be heading directly into a position after graduation.”


“Sounds like he has his life in order,” his mother comments, dropping her gaze finally to her place, the lack of scrutiny having the air wanting to burst from Luhan in a relieved sigh but he keeps it in. Keeps himself calm and controlled. He’s fine. He’s fine. He and Yifan are fine. “What about you?” she continues. “Have you set anything up for the winter? Any internships?”


The lump is back in his throat, mind spinning over properly phrased responses. “I already told you last time I was home that I was going to do a summer internship.”


“Many students do an internship in the winter,” his mother points out calmly, not looking at him as she carefully cuts the food on her plate into perfectly sized pieces. Delicate and calculated, exact in all details and methodology, his mother is the image of precision and poise, exactly as she taught him to mimic. “I remember hearing about it from Mrs. Kim. And Zitao was looking at it.” He pauses to take a bite. “You don’t feel yourself called to do the same?”


His throat is sticky as he swallows, his appetite gone. He can feel it in his body, the exact movement of muscle and tension, the swell in his fingers and the settle around his torso, lingering just below his navel. “I wanted to focus on my studies,” Luhan explains as simply as he can. Keep it simple. It’s fine.


He’s fine. Everything is fine.


The chair at the opposite end of his mother is empty and has been since Luhan came home wearing clothes too formal for a child. The chair is empty and it’s only his mother watching him and doing the job of a roomful of people all putting him on surveillance.


“I see,” his mother says, tone calm and indifferent and Luhan almost clenches his fingers under the table, to focus on something, anything else. He keeps his eyes fixed on her, in polite attention. “Well, that’s your choice. It’s your job to choose what is best for you, do what represents yourself the best, what is the most important to you.” The words slide into him, around him, just as they always do, circling around and sinking deeper until they wrap around the space in his chest and squeeze.


More than fine. Fine is never enough. You must excel. You are better than they are so show them your worth.


you are my son. show the world what that means.


There is nothing to argue, Luhan casting down his eyes to his place and keeping his hands upon his thighs, the material of his jeans slightly rough in pattern against his palms as his mind flashes over everything that he could say but does not. “Yes, mother.” It is the only answer he can give.


Disappointment.


“How is Yixing?” his mother asks, her voice drawing him from his thoughts. “And Jinri. I remember you spending a lot of time with them before. Did that change?”


Swallowing around the tension which still constricts his throat and sticks despite his greatest will to have it vanish, Luhan opens his mouth, a smile playing about his lip in automatic reaction, farce as to his demeanor, as he begins to weave stories. His mother smiles, that disconnected curve of her lips as she listens about Luhan’s friends, his studies, his classes and professors and the things he goes in his spare time. She listens as he tells her of the recent events of the school, the news of the neighbors and the recent political debates he has been following to keep himself informed.


She listens and never speaks, letting his voice fill the void of silence that has crept and made it’s home in this house with the scene of lavender and roses, covering up the stillness that has plagued it since Luhan was a child. She listens and her eyes follow his hands in their occasional gesture. She listens and Luhan talks and calms himself slightly in the attention focused on him, the reminder that he is her son and thus all she sees when he comes home to her.


Luhan is her son and the only one she has ever looked after so fiercely that to question her, to defy, was the largest transgression and all that was needed was a sense of approval, an accepting smile.


She smiles and Luhan’s breathing eases just a notch further in his chest.


Returning late to his room, hands slightly damp from dishes, Luhan pauses in the hall, his eyes lingering on the few photos hung along the walls. Photos of history, of landscapes and of families together. His mother and her sister, his cousin Zitao a child in the photograph, smiling brilliant with Luhan beside him looking slightly more reserved. A photo of himself. A photo of his mother, the handsome man with a gentle face beside her, his father, staring back at him.


Eyes closed in a bed of satin that never open.


An involuntary shudder spikes through Luhan, crawling up his spin rapidly as a wave of revulsion and spite slams into him without warning, turning swiftly from the photographs to walk back down the hall, shaking himself. As he closes the door to his room, the lamp flickers on and fills the room with a soft warm glow, Luhan’s hands beginning to shake as his breath shortens again, worse than it had downstairs.


A soft face with gentle features and pretty lips, eyes that were always so kind, too kind. A laugh that reassured and was gentle and sweet and loving beyond the point of reason, hands too small fitting over one of his soft fingers and holding tight. Luhan closes his eyes, breathing through his nose to rid the images from his mind as they flicker in faded tandem behind the lids.


“No,” he says, hand reaching out to steady himself on the corner of the desk he knows the location of instinctively. “No,” he repeats and breathes out heavily. Opening his eyes, he meets his own, reflected back in the full body length mirror opposite him. He stares at himself, hair pushed carefully back to show his face, the softened lines of sharp bones running from his jaw to shape his face, the cheekbones that form into rounded laughing cheeks when humored and the eyes which are clear and bright. Striking, he’s been told.


Lips pink and glistening, fingertips brushing over them in silent evaluation, breath warmly ghosting over them. So, so similar but not the same.


Never the same.


He is not the same.


The smiling face of Yifan slips into his mind, phantom feeling of his hands around Luhan’s, brushing over the planes of his face and down the sides of his neck, warm and kind and gentle. Breathing deeply, Luhan opens his eyes, looking around the room. His fingers feel the ghosting touch of firm bone and muscle, toned body despite almost delicate gesture and, a small frown creasing his features, he pulls his shirt swiftly from his head, turning to the mirror and examining.


The tightness is back, the raw feeling that closes around his throat as his eyes travel up and down the smooth expanse of skin, the stretch of bone and the lightest suggestion of muscle, not truly formed and showing the barest hints. The small portion that rests in his gut turns, writing up and seizing into him as his eyes follow his fingers and their brushing trail over skin that prickles to the cool air of the room.


He is fine. Everything in his life is fine. Fine.


Breaths choke in his mouth as the walls bend, closing in and with a sharp breath in, Luhan’s hands push to grip into his hair, eyes squeezing shut and closing out the image of himself. His knees lock as his heart begins to pound and he pushes out the anxious grate over every inch of himself.


Fine. Fine. Fine. Fine fine fine fine has never been the accepted state.


such a wonderful boy.


His lip nearly bleeds as his teeth dig into it harshly, keeping himself from screaming out at the voice that whispers along the back of his mind. Luhan focuses, forcing his mind to cooperate, to stop and to correct. Accept, resolve, remember what is important and keep everything together even when falling apart internally.


With a deep breath in, his heart still jumping too fast, Luhan steels himself, eyes still closed and swallowing down the horrific stick in his throat as his skin crawls. Straightening until his back is straight, a rod up his spine of stability, he raises his head, facing across the room and opens his eyes.


He looks back, his eyes clear and strong and the solid feeling that slips into his chest as him letting out a stable breath as he calms.


He’s not fine. He’s better than that.




◦❀◦





When the cracks begin, they’re small. At first no one notices, no one does with hairline cracks and the beginnings of failure when they don’t want to see it. But they’re there, spreading like spider silk just under the vision though Luhan can feel them.


He can feel them in between the words, in the touches and they cling to his skin just like the same spider silk, catching and making him feel sticky and dirty, irritated and the bones in his fingers lock as they clench at the sensation.


“Luhan?”


Time and time again it’s nothing but questions. Answer upon answer never enough and he wants space, needs space, the constricting intimacy far less comforting than it was, the need to breathe, to gasp for air and let it engulf him, embracing his skin rather than gentle hands. He breathes, settling back instead into the warmth that should reassure him.


“What?”


He doesn’t mean for it to come out as short as it does, there’s no reason for him to be terse but at the same moment he can't bring himself to particularly care. It’s been slowly developing, to the point that Luhan wonders when it began, when the cracks first formed and how he didn’t notice them sooner. The nagging in his mind tells him he was blind, that they were always there and he was too foolish to take notice of them. Foolish. Stupid.


“Are you feeling okay?” Yifan asks, his brows creased in concern and the look has irritation flaring in Luhan, spiking hot up his chest, wanting to push back, shove away but he doesn’t. There isn’t a reason to.


“I’m fine,” he says and the word turns sour on his tongue. He’s always fine, always has been fine. He can be so much more.


He deserves so much more.


Yifan’s expression flickers. “Are you sure? You-“


“I said I’m fine,” Luhan repeats, ignoring the taste of the word as it sandpapers over his teeth. “So I’m fine.” He sighs as Yifan pulls back, shock on his face and Luhan knows it’s the wrong behavior. The wrong thing to say and do and not what he’s depicted as; not how Yifan knows him. “Sorry,” he says, the word softer. “I’ve just been a bit stressed lately. I have a lot on my mind.”


Rather than the soft silence of peace, a hand gently takes his own, offering support and strength in the press of fingers over his, holding it and him by synthesis. When Luhan looks up, Yifan is smiling at him, a gentle soft and sympathetic expression on his face, sweet and simple and with affection that Luhan’s chest seizes at. It’s not a normal reaction.


Yifan is his boyfriend. He likes Yifan, he has for a while, has been attracted to him and finds him kind and nice and awkwardly amusing...


Yifan is his boyfriend who spends far too much time getting ready, gets over emotional at movies and music, whose style sense is sometimes repugnant and the jokes become less endearingly funny as Luhan listens to them. Yifan is his boyfriend and it’s fine, his hands resting around Luhan’s as he watches him. Yifan kisses him gently and carefully and it’s fine and the words grates in his mind as he looks at Yifan.


Some people will settle with fine, even going as far as to actively look for it, that stable and quiet medium where it is neither exceptional nor substandard. It makes sense to simply accept that which works without fuss and never look beyond the walls and strive for excellence, strive for perfection and the absolute.


Fine was always the acceptable answer, the average C grade in school. Fine was always the position in the choir of school without solos or honorable mention. Fine is the settlement in life, accepting that to go further isn’t necessary.


Fine is boring and mundane.


Luhan isn’t fine. Luhan is excellence, with impeccable manners, work ethic, platinum records academically and friends who adore him and awards and honors for his name. It has never been in his nature to pass for anything that he didn’t have to work for, that was the standard.


It’s always been that way, since he was young and when harsh words and treatment were directed at him for his appearance and soft pretty looks, he had focused. Easy targets will fall and life is never easy.


Cream rises to the top, perfect and rich in person, body and soul.


“Luhan?” Yifan watches him across the table and Luhan’s mind clicks through the lists that have instilled there for years, the standards that he nearly forgot as time crawled away with him dragging behind and looking at the past slowly fading behind him and tried to look for the future. Yifan isn’t bad, but he isn’t…


“I’m sorry,” Luhan says, pulling his hands from Yifan’s, the rush of cold against his skin sending a shiver over him. “I’m tired.”


They had barely spoken much, the usual easy conversation stilted between words and the spidering cracks that just deepen, slowly beginning to form and visualize the longer Luhan looks.


“Okay,” Yifan says, standing after Luhan and waiting, watching as Luhan gathers his coat and bag, preparing to leave the restaurant they had been sitting in. It was nice, the atmosphere pleasant but not what he wants, not what he needs. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” He leans in, lips soft and sweet, almost too kind and caring as they press against Luhan’s in a familiar display of affection, his hand lingering at Luhan’s and holding him close.


“Tomorrow,” Luhan echoes before giving him a weak smile that feels tainted and walking from the restaurant.


The air nips at his skin, the mid October weather pinching at his skin as he walks brusquely through the campus, eyes steady forward and head held high. The air is clear and refreshing as he strides through it, the darker light of autumn casting shadows as Luhan passes his building and continues on.


A loud yelp greets him as he slams his fist against a familiar door, the old dark wood almost shaking as he makes his presence known. Opening swiftly, large eyes widen and blink at him in surprise. “Luhan,” Yixing says, obviously surprised as Luhan brushes past him, feeling the tightness in his muscles that can only mean is stress is manifesting. Physically. Relax. “What are you doing here?”


Letting out a grunt, Luhan drops his bag and flops onto Yixing’s bed, grabbing a pillow that so strongly smells of his best friend and burying his face into it. He groans loudly as he hears Yixing close the door quietly.


“I thought you were out with Yifan all night.” The mention of his boyfriend has Luhan letting out a sigh, wishing that weren’t the focus. It shouldn’t be the focus. He’s here, he’s Yixing’s best friend and that’s what’s important, not his dinner with his boyfriend that had begin to finally show to him what he was doing. “What happened?”


“I wanted to see you instead,” Luhan speaks into Yixing’s pillow, lifting his head a moment later to see Yixing’s skeptical face peering back at him from the chair he’s pulled up beside the bed. Luhan grins widely, rolling to shuffle back in the bed, creating room enough for two aside from himself. He waits for Yixing to join him.


“Is something wrong?” Yixing asks, his face shifting into that concerned look he had donned previously. Luhan can feel the curl in his chest that is the beginning of anxiety, not wanting Yixing to dwell like he knows he does more than anyone else.


“Nothing is wrong,” Luhan lies, reaching out and taking Yixing by the hand. It’s soft, smaller in his and fits easier, it’s more familiar and more practical. Not expected and just as unique and gentle as Yixing is. “I just wanted to see you.” He flashes a grin. “Didn’t you miss hanging out with me?”


Yixing’s eyes roll and he makes to pull his hand from Luhan’s grip, lips pressing into a line when Luhan tightens his grip and pulls, tugging Yixing into bed with him. He wants him, wants the comfort only Yixing can bring, pressed into his side like he has been so many times before, the only soft and gentle force Luhan ever needed.


Sometimes he forgets. With Yifan, for a moment, he forgot.


Smiling in triumph, Luhan wraps himself around Yixing when his friend tumbles into the bed with a huff, shifting and shoving Luhan to make room, grumbling at him before settling finally with a sigh. Eyes closed at the familiar feeling and sense of calm that comes from Yixing’s fingers gently drumming rhythms against his side, Luhan breathes and breathes easily.


“Do you want to talk about it?” Yixing asks, voice muffled against Luhan’s forehead, his lips brushing against hair and skin and Luhan would flinch away but he’s too relaxed, too tired curled up with Yixing. It’s been so long since they were like this, since he spent time like this with anyone but Yifan. It feels a waste and a cheat.


“Not really,” Luhan sighs. Yixing was the one who had pushed them together. It’s not his fault that it wasn’t right, just like they hadn’t been right either. Some things just aren’t supposed to last, Luhan reminds himself of this as Yixing tugs him closer.


“Can you tell me a little bit?” Yixing asks, voice softer as his fingers stop drumming and instead his hand runs along his side gently, soothing away the clinging feeling of cobwebs and cracks along a perfectly painted surface.


A deep breath in, filling his lungs before he lets it out, expelling the dust of flaws and imperfections from him and into the air, the cobwebs of ‘just fine’ leaving him. “It just wasn’t okay.”


Yixing stills. “Did he hurt you?” he asks, voice sharper and Luhan’s eyes open, pulling back to look at Yixing’s face. He looks stern, far more than Luhan has seen him ever in the past. His eyes flicker between Luhan’s rapidly and the beat of Luhan’s heart swells gently at the concern, the affection, and investment Yixing has in him. Protective of him when he doesn’t have to be.


Luhan can take care of himself. He lets out a ghosting laugh. “No,” he says, settling back into Yixing with a light sigh. “No, he didn’t hurt me.”


Yixing doesn’t push, instead murmuring about nothing and everything Luhan never needs to pay attention to, his fingers gently rising to card through his hair, lulling him it into a sense of peace and calm, drifting along the lines of sleep until he slips under.




◦❀◦





The judgment is uncalled for. It may not entirely be judgment, not pure and pulsing with every beat of a heart in the woman’s chest but the concept is there and that’s enough to have a rush of irritation. This is a safe environment. There should be no judgment.


“You broke up with your boyfriend?” Luhan almost sneers at her, mocking the question for it’s stupidity. He had just said as much, there is no need to restate what he had already made plain and clear.


“Yes,” he answers instead, keeping his eyes fixed on the spot just over her shoulder. “I broke up with him.”


“How?” A pen scratches gently over a paper and categorizes him into a specific condition with a specific treatment and a pattern of speech to conform to it.
“I told him we should stop seeing each other.”


“And what did he do?” she asks, voice even and calm, practiced and horrifically soothing as it washes over the room, sliding in and out of the silence, breaking it and putting it back together.


“I don't know,” Luhan says, sitting back in the couch and letting himself relax on it. He doesn’t often relax here, not in the space where he’s been confined, been compartmentalized as needed to belong within by those who don’t know him. Those who unfortunately have an impact on his life and his decisions despite the impracticality of it.


The pen stops in mid scratch of lines over the paper. “What do you mean you don’t know?”


The hiss of judgment that snaps at him, lashing at the space where his heart is and snapping it’s teeth at him, viciously. He watches her face, her eyes on him level and calculating and he nearly sneers, bares his teeth and waits to see her reaction. Find something wrong with him, find something abnormal aside from the boring nonsense she’s been spoon feeding him with an audiobook voice.


“I messaged him.”


To: Fan Fan - I’m sorry. But it’s over.


Fan Fan - … why? :c


To: Fan Fan - it’s not working. we aren’t working. and you use weird emoticons



“You broke up with your boyfriend by sending him a text?” The question almost makes him proud, the restatement of the inquiry making the reality that much more vivid. The stretch of freedom along his limbs, the taste of it on his tongue as he eats without wondering when his phone will buzz and the when he’ll be expected to talk.


“Yes,” he says, casual and uncaring. It happens all the time, relationships ending with the simple transmission of written type over a phone screen. He isn’t ashamed. Instead a the feeling in his chest anything but shame related.


“Why did you use a text message?”


“I just didn’t want to see him,” Luhan says, irritation crawling over his skin, the burn in his chest intensifying as he thinks of the long stream of texts still resting in his phone, the last line of his own reply buried within a long stream. Asking why. Asking to talk. Luhan doesn’t want to, doesn’t need to be weakened by it. “It was clean and quick.”


“Are you sad at all?”


“About what?” Scratch along the sides of his mind and stick into his skin like knives.


“About ending your relationship with your boyfriend.”


“No,” Luhan says, voice hard and firm and resolution sticking to the word. The sink in his chest to his stomach, solidifying as it travels, must be his decisive. It was the correct choice, it was the right thing to do. It wouldn’t have gone anywhere, the steady plateau never moving and progressing into a spiral of boredom and repetition.


“What was wrong?” she asks. Each question is timed perfectly, the spaces between words exactly as they are meant to be said, offering the appropriate listening time for their target. It wouldn’t be that hard to mimic, the temptation to begin asking questions in the same dulled and emotionless manner tickling at him.


“It was just wrong,” Luhan sighs, legs crossing as he settles a bit further into the couch. “It’s for the best.”


She pauses, her actions calculated as she reaches to the desk just behind her, taking a sip of water as she watches him, actions careful. Luhan watches her movement, waiting. “He didn’t make you happy.” The inflection of a question is implied.


“Not enough,” Luhan says, testing out the slow methodical placement of speaking that she does, trying to lull his voice in a lower relaxing timbre.


“So what does make you happy, Luhan?”


The gears in his mind slow, the lists stop running and the absent categorization, the observing of his therapist and her black nylon stockings, hair down today as he cascades over her shoulders slowing down. He looks at her, the sunlight streaming in from the windows around them, highlighting the dust particles in the air and changing the colors of everything though brilliant illumination.


He can’t answer.




◦❀◦





The line clicks dead, the burning feeling along the edge of his mouth increasing as the screen lights in the termination of the call. His feet continue on the same path as they had been moments before, voice in his ear and digging into his skull as he listened rather than spoke. Looking up, Luhan pockets his phone, pushing down the nagging feeling that seems to come from most of the conversations with his mother these days.


are you still dating that boy? no. oh, that’s too bad.


Shaking himself mentally, he strides to the campus café, pushing the thoughts that float about his mind to the back, where they belong and where he will sort them later. Not now, not when he has other things to be doing.


Minseok is waiting for him, a second Americano beside him as his own cup sits waiting in his hands. He smiles easily up at him, the chair next to his empty and intended for Luhan obviously. “You’re early,” Minseok says as Luhan sits down, taking the coffee gratefully and letting the black bitter liquid slip past his lips and into his system.


“Punctual,” Luhan says easily, sitting back and letting the taste of the coffee linger in his mouth, appreciating the bitter flavor. It calms him down, helps him think and allows him to focus, mind clearing. “Besides, I said I would be here, and here I am.”


“For once,” Minseok scoffs and Luhan smiles at him despite the look thrown in his direction. “Good to see you after this time though. You kind of… vanished for a while.”


“I’m here now though,” Luhan points out as Minseok takes another sip of his drink, the milk foam of the cappuccino sticking to his upper lip. “And I’ll be there on Friday. I promised.”


“I hope you will be,” Minseok says, a meaningful look in his eyes as looks at Luhan beside him. The conversation isn’t light, moving into the darker heaviness that it did at the end of last term when Minseok had stopped smiling as often at him and started watching instead. Luhan swallows.


“He’s my best friend,” Luhan says. “I promised him I would go, and I will. This is important.”


“I’m glad you realize that,” Minseok says, though he doesn’t specify which part he is referring to. Luhan watches him, running over the lines of his face, the curve of his nose, his jaw, and the sharp defined brows above his almond eyes. Handsome, in his own peculiar way. “He’s been working so hard for it. I swear he doesn’t sleep anymore, which, knowing him, is scary.”


“As long as he’s able to shower,” Luhan says, lips to the rim of his coffee and Minseok laughs at that. Luhan smiles.


“I’m pretty sure even that is taking a secondary position to the showcase,” Minseok tells him, his fingers gently sliding over the rim of his cup, gentle and calculating. “But then, everyone is getting ready for the middle of the semester.” He glances up, meeting Luhan’s eyes. “How are you doing? I didn’t even hear from you around Midterms.”


It hadn’t really registered, the passing of the exam session, the general scheduling and organization of his life having just swept him in stride. The hand of Yifan at his back and himself prodding the other awake when he nodded off during the long study hours. He blinks, keeping the frown from his lips as Minseok watches him.


“Same as always,” Luhan replies easily and Minseok chuckles again, lips spreading in a wide smile.


“Deans list again, then.”


Luhan can’t help but to smile, the familiar letters and notifications on his wall and in folders, stacked away to take and remind him of himself. To remind him of all that he does and all that he can do. The proof of hard work. Of exception.


“What else would I be on?”


“Drugs.”


Luhan laughs, the response automatic despite the sour twist that corkscrews it's way over him and digs into the back of his tongue. Minseok smiles, as if pleased with his answer and Luhan pushes it back, back into the chasm where it all goes and waits for sorting later. Waits for him to organize it later, to look at it all later.


“Sure,” Luhan forces the jest. “I’m that type.”


“I never want to see you on drugs,” Minseok laughs into his drink. “It’d possibly the be worst combination of human and substance ever. You drunk is enough for me to tolerate.”


“So kind of you to tolerate me,” Luhan prods back, elbowing him a bit and earning a crooked smile. “What time is the performance tomorrow?” Minseok gives him a slightly annoyed incredulous look and Luhan laughs, enjoying the play of emotion and accepting futility that spans over his friends face. “Kidding. I know it’s at eight.”


“Seven,” Minseok corrects with a small huff and Luhan grins at the reaction, goading. “Shut up,” grumbles at him and he laughs again. The laughing and calm chatting, just friendly and teasing as it always is when he’s with Minseok, is soothing, bringing him back from the clipped tone of his mother’s voice into his ear and his own words being swallowed. “Get there early. We need good seats.”


“Are you bringing any banners?” Luhan asks, the projected image of Yixing on stage and moving to music that seeps from speakers as he is the only thing lit amid blackness. “Something that Yixing will see in the middle of his routine and know you love him.”


“We’re going to a dance showcase, not a pop concert,” Minseok scoffs at him, though Luhan knows from the light in his eyes that he’s amused. “But if you feel so inclined as to make yourself a ‘I love Zhang Yixing’ banner with lots of hearts, far be it for me to stop you.”


“I don’t judge,” Luhan says, holding up a hand in mock surrender and Minseok laughs again.


“You say that,” he muses as he takes another sip of his cappuccino, shaking his head later as he sits back.


Smiling, Luhan raises his own drink to his lips, the warm bitter liquid flooding his mouth as his eyes sweep over the café. Rarely empty and the perfect spot for observing, for seeing or being seen, waving to those recognized or familiar, his eyes pause on a table in the far corner. His smile, which had been so easy spread over his lips, fades, faltering as he takes in the familiar form sprawled in the chair, nose buried in a large book on what Luhan assumes would be post modern literature with a cap backwards on his head.


“Luhan?” Minseok turns to see what has captured Luhan’s attention and stills. Luhan waits, his attention lingering, pushing over the thoughts in his mind, wondering if Yifan saw them, saw him. Waiting for him to look up, for their eyes to meet and to see the flicker in them that he knows so well, that he can read and catch the glimpse of longing in them from across the café. “Luhan, you’re staring.”


Yifan doesn’t look up, his attention absorbed in the book before him and Luhan’s tongue pokes out of his lips to run along them, wetting them from the dryness and tasting bitter coffee. “Sorry,” he says, voice disconnected as his gaze lingers. He doesn’t want him, not anymore. The time when he had passed a few weeks ago and the necessity to hold on and linger isn’t present when he had been the one to walk away.


It’s always easier to be the one who breaks up than to be broken up with, people will say. It’s easier to break a heart than to have your heart broken, people will say. The hard part in a break up is moving on, people will say.


Luhan sits in the café and watches as Yifan reads, feeling nothing of the connection he had once, the softness or the longing that so many might expect him to feel deep within himself for the man across the room. The nostalgia which would grip into him in a moment like this with such a familiar scene presented. He only waits, expecting for eyes to meet as Minseok’s frown deepens.


“You’re creepy, man,” Minseok says, pulling Luhan from his thoughts, from his patiently waiting for Yifan to look over. He never did.


“I’m not creepy,” Luhan says before turning to him and tilting his head down, smiling as he does so. Minseok immediately winces, turning away from the expression and making a disturbed whine, making to shove at him.


“Don’t do that, you look horrible,” Minseok complains at him, shoving him in his chair, hand pressing firm against his shoulder and Minseok delights at it. “Come on.” He shoves Luhan once more, earning a loud laugh that echoes through the café and has a few eyes flickering in their direction. “I want to get dinner before it gets too late. Still up for that game of soccer?”


“Of course,” Luhan says, standing with Minseok and tugging his bag over his shoulder easily, the books weighing down the stray to dig into his shoulder. “I haven’t changed my mind about that.” Minseok smiles and, as they step from the café, Luhan’s eyes flicker over to Yifan. He doesn’t look up, doesn’t look at him, doesn’t even seem aware of his existence, and it lights a flash of irritation through his heart as he turns away and smiles at Minseok as if nothing had changed.




◦❀◦





The darkness of the auditorium mixes, drawing all focus to the stage where all seats face, the stage itself raised slightly out of necessity, pit dug before it and the lights, hazed in violets and indigo, begin to pool on the wooden floor. The seats are soft, pleasant and do not distract from the onset of the performance on stage, the first dancers, stepping out from the side stages hidden by hanging black curtains quiet and swift in their movements. Silent, aside from the slowly building music that spreads through the room and builds as the synthesized melody begins to form, they move.


Luhan has always admired dancers, himself graceful on his feet but nothing like when he watches the stage, the people moving in fluid connected movement, music swelling into something of beauty. He’s never exactly understood the concept of performance art, body art and the modern displays of emotion and creation, but dance is different.


Dance always has something which is impressive, which is unique and enrapturing, which is beautiful. The company spreads between the different numbers, Yixing finally stepping onto stage on the second music change. As with all performances, the second he moves onto the stage, feet touching the floor, his entire self changes.


A metamorphosis from a laughing and silly teasing friend into an emblem of physical beauty, stepping light over the stage with soundless feet, muscles tensing, spinning and flexing as the air parts for him to find his place within it. Raw talent, honed by years of dedication and conditioning his body has him breathtaking on the stage, Luhan sitting in silence and eyes following him as he dances, the music complimenting him rather than the other men and women around him.


As the dance shifts, moving through the music and the sequencing, the other dancers occupy Luhan’s attention, the girls all with hair down and flying about them, all of the performers in black tight pants, flashes of color just in small pieces of fabric as black shirts cling to the lines of torsos and chests, defining the perfect shape of the human body.


The girl at the front of the stage spins, her spine curving as she bows into the movement, her body pure energy that pulsates from the line where the stage lights end and the audience begins. Her lips are painted light pink, open as she breathes, eyes rimmed in black and drawing to her face as her long hair whips across her shoulders.


In a flash, she pulls back from the edge, bringing all attention with her as she draws back, her hand reaching out and taken by another, gentle and waiting for her, bringing her close to a man Luhan has never seen before. Tall, strong shoulders clad in a black tank that fits so close to his body it seems painted to his tanned skin, full lips parted as his eyes train on the girl in intensity. His movements are unlike anything Luhan has seen.


He’s new, tall and strong and standing out from the other dancers as he glides over the stage and captures Luhan’s attention, unable to take his eyes away for long even as Yixing reenters the stage and dance. He presses his lips tight, the tug of curiosity in his mind and spreading through him having his fingers clench together in his lap over carefully folded legs.


The young man spins, raw energy and passion and less precision than Yixing but something about the overwhelming energy has Luhan struck far more than when watching his friend. He’s utterly beautiful.


“He’s really good,” Minseok’s voice, hushed to a whisper, sounds right beside Luhan’s ear, startling him to flinch slightly away from the proximity even as his eyes flicker to the new dancing boy. “He really has been working hard and it shows off.”


Yixing. Minseok is talking about Yixing. Their friend, dancing and displaying his hard work and effort on stage in a captivating performance, center stage and spinning with control and power. Luhan’s eyes flicker to him, training for a moment before the catch on the other and can’t look away.


“Yeah,” he says, swallowing down a dry through that is strange in the well conditioned auditorium.


The performance goes by faster than it seems, the dances moving seamlessly from the group numbers to the solos and duets. Luhan’s attention wanders between the moving figures on stage, following the lines of backs, legs, arms, and the breathes releasing into the air. His eyes linger, flickering between the form of his best friend and the nameless young dancer who seems to take up the whole stage as he flies out.


“Holy shit,” Minseok breathes beside him when the beat kicks up and the girls flee from the stage leaving only Yixing and the other man. The two dancers trade a look as the unmistakable faster beat increases in volume and the two suddenly snap into a routine. Minseok’s lips just brush the shell of Luhan’s ear as he sits, captivated. “Did you know he was doing a duet?”


“No clue.” Mind in a lulled daze, Luhan watches, the controlled and sharper movements, snapping and popping, the two men on stage perfectly rehearsed and in sync, trading a few looks. They look planned but something in the ease and spike in energy that rolls of the stage tells Luhan there is more there, a closeness.


The flare of heat in his chest has him inhaling sharply, his eyes on the two dancers, drawn to the performance as Yixing dances, his partner beside him and Luhan wants more of it.


As the bass rhythmically beats through the expansive room, the music picking up and the rest of the dance company returns to the stage, Luhan wonders how well Yixing knows his dancing friend. Wonders if he could introduce them and if the man smiles as pretty with friends as he does standing at the edge of the stage, hands clasped with the other dancers, and beaming at the applause that rings out.


The students, faculty, scattering of parents, and others all mingle and loiter around the front of the auditorium doors, chattering and musing over the performance. Luhan and Minseok are joined by Sunyoung and Suji, two members of Luhan’s ethics and debate seminar from the previous year. ‘That was amazing,” Sunyoung says, voice bright and smile brighter on her pretty face, cheeks flushed as she looks between Minseok and Luhan. “I can’t believe they managed to get that whole thing together in just two months!”


“Impressive,” Minseok agrees with a good natured smile as Luhan nods, his own smile on his lips as his eyes flicker between the girls and the crowd, looking. “I thought all of the choreo was really well done, and the concept they chose for the whole thing was-“


“Luhan!” Turning sharply, a wide and bright smile spreads over his face as he sees Yixing pushing through the crowd, flushed and exhilarated as he practically beams. He still has his make up smeared over his skin, bleeding at the edges of his eyes and sweat beads at his hairline and dampens his shirt and hair but Luhan doesn’t hesitate to pull Yixing into a hug. “You came!” Yixing’s voice is higher, pitched in excitement from the show and his joy in seeing his friends, smile beautiful and near euphoric on his face as he looks at the others waiting to congratulate him.


“Of course we came,” Luhan laughs, shaking Yixing slightly in his arms, careful to not aggravate his waist. He remembers, from years ago when watching Yixing first in the studios and the wince on his face. He remembers that at least. “I wouldn't want to miss your first performance of the year.” Yixing glows at the words. “You did an amazing job. I swear, you stole the show. Never gave the other dancers a chance.”


“Ya!” Yixing says, pushing him away with a laugh, peals of amusement falling from his lips as he continues to laugh. Luhan smiles at it, the sound so good to hear from his friend who has looked so worn from the last few weeks. “I was only in half of the numbers.”


“You stood out so much I didn’t notice the others,” Luhan tells him with a laugh and Yixing’s cheeks darken as he scoffs and shakes his head, shoving Luhan away before his hands come to wrap around Luhan’s waist habitually. “I tell you no lies.”


“Shush,” Yixing tells him as Minseok smiles at the dancer, now leaning his head gently against Luhan’s shoulder as some of the adrenalin leaves him. “Thank you guys for coming.”


“We wouldn’t miss it,” Minseok says, smiling himself as he reaches forward and clasps Yixing by the shoulder. “Honestly, you just keep outdoing yourself with all of these performances. And I read in the program you choreographed half of the performance itself?”


Yixing laughs, the exhaustion beginning to lace into his voice as he pulls away from Luhan, the warmth receding and Luhan shifts, his hand resting at the small of Yixing’s back gently as he glances around. A sea of strangers faces and heads in the way. “Yeah,” Yixing says, Luhan only half listening to the conversation. “I got to work with our main choreographer and Jongin on a few of them.”


“Was he the one you choreographed the duet with?” Sunyoung asks, her voice avid with curiosity and it pulls Luhan’s focus back to the conversation. He catches Yixing’s nod and smile just in time and heat skitters over his skin. “That was amazing. I don't think I’ve ever seen anyone dance like that before.” Yixing laughs, the red on his cheeks spreading and deepening, bright against his usually pale skin.


“He’s really talented,” Yixing says, gently brushing at the fringe of perspiration on his face with the back of his hand. “We’re really lucky to have him.”


“You choreographed the duet with him?” Luhan asks, turning Yixing’s attention back to himself.


“It was in the program,” laughs Suji as Yixing’s eyes widen. “Didn't you read it?”


“We got here a little late,” Luhan explains as Yixing’s expression calms a bit, settling though his eyes flicker.


“By that, Luhan means he got here late.” The clarification from Minseok has his lips pressing in a line, eyes still fixed on Yixing as the dancer’s eyes flash over him quickly. “I got here on time and got us front row seats.”


“Third row,” Luhan corrects, sliding his hand up Yixing’s spine gently, the heat radiating from Yixing’s still hot from dancing body warming his fingers and spreading through him. He’s curious. “We were in the third row.”


“Far better seats than if I’d waited for you to choose,” Minseok throws back and Yixing lets out a laugh, Suji joining him as he smiles and Luhan’s smile crooks gently. “I told you to be on time.”


“I was on time,” Luhan insists as Yixing leans back into his hand. He’s tired, Luhan can read it in the lines around his mouth and the dark circles slowly revealing as the make up around his eyes fades. He reaches out, brushing his thumb absently under Yixing’s eyes, earning a small jerk back initially but then Yixing relaxes, letting Luhan gently clean his face. “I promised I would come.”


Yixing’s eyes flicker, meeting Luhan’s as they flash over his face, a searching glint in them and Luhan smiles. Just as he always has. As he always will at Yixing, because he knows what it means. “You promise a lot of things,” Yixing says and it makes Luhan’s smile falter, his hand pausing as it rests just brushing Yixing’s face. But then Yixing is turning, smiling brightly at the others all watching him curiously. “Anyway, I have to go change and check up with a few others. Can I catch you up in the dining hall?”


“It’s so late though, you should sleep,” Sunyoung says, a note of concern in her voice as Minseok nods along with her in agreement.


“I’d rather get something to eat,” Yixing laughs, stepping back and away from them, brushing his hair from his face.


“Who else do you have to talk to?” Luhan asks, looking after his friend, wondering who Yixing might have to talk to aside from them. He knows he has other friends, people from his classes, from the dance company, but he hadn’t seen them here and Yixing just spent the last few weeks with no one but the dance company so-


“Just people,” Yixing says, the answer far too vague to settle easily with Luhan and he frowns. “I want to check up with Jongin.”


“The dancer?” Luhan’s pulse skips and he feels it jolt in his wrists, tingling through his fingers gently. The murmur of the crowd around them tunes out as their conversation focuses and narrows. Minseok is watching him, the girls chattering about something to the side and out of focus.


Yixing nods.


“Why don't we get to meet your dancer friends?” Luhan asks, stepping to follow him, a pout pushing at his lips, making them fuller. “You keep them all to yourself. What happened to sharing?”


“Why do you care?” is clipped as it leaves Yixing’s lips and Luhan stops short. Yixing looks away. “You never cared about my other friends before, what’s so special about Jongin.”


“I’m just curious,” Luhan says, stepping forward and to Yixing as easy as he can and with a concerned tug to his lips. The look and shift in Yixing worries him, not expecting Yixing to act like this, to push back so harshly. “You two looked so good on stage and were so cool together I just want to congratulate him too and thank him for his hard work.” He tries to grin.


Yixing doesn’t. “You never were this curious about my other friends, even when I talked about them to you and tried to get you to meet them. You didn’t even listen or remember about Yifan until after you-“


“What has he got to do with anything?” Luhan interrupts, the mention of the name throwing him off guard and unbalanced, whipped back and out of place. His mood tips, turning down as his mind flashes over things that just were and never progressed much, stale before they were fresh. Yifan was safe, he wasn’t anything exceptional.


The smoky eyes and glistening tan skin that shines in the lights and screams of pure raw talent and ability. The true manner of exception and something to admire. Luhan fingers twitch as his pulse throbs.


“He doesn’t.” Yixing isn’t smiling at all now.


Luhan sighs, nothing wanting to argue right now, when there are people everywhere, watching or with the potential to, with Minseok behind him and with Yixing tired and sweaty, worked up after a long performance. After weeks of training, Yixing is tired and not thinking straight.


Not all things work out, even if Yixing had thought he and Yifan were good together, it didn’t mean they were. Not all things work out, Yixing should know this the best of all. Right now, Luhan doesn't want to fight with him, to make him uncomfortable about this, to push him when he’s already so fragile.


Luhan has to be strong and understand, assume the proper role as his friend and companion. “I’m sorry,” he says, trying to smile and Yixing’s expression softens. The lines around his face are etched deep, hours of exhaustion and lack of sleep from a body that already has so much strain on it. Yixing sighs, stepping back further and it pulls at Luhan. “Yixing.”


“It’s fine,” sighs back as Yixing turns, offering another smile to Minseok and the girls. “I’ll see you in the dining hall?”


Minseok doesn’t look at him when Luhan steps back to the small group, instead engaged with Suji in a conversation about the dance team as Sunyoung listens avidly. Luhan listens along, his eyes drifting over the crowd. He leans in occasionally, listening in for the conversation and keeping with the flow, tongue poking gently at his lips to keep them from drying out as his eyes flicker to try to catch a glimpse of black hair, tanned skin, and eyes set in smoke.




◦❀◦





The lecture is winding to a close, the professor smiling at them all as the questions begin to pour in, nodding to students with their hands raised and explaining what they inquire. His hands rest on the desk, observing his class and his eyes linger for a moment on the front row, making a smile widen on Luhan’s face as he notices the attention on himself. He’s a week ahead, final project for the class finished and passed in and the congratulatory and approving words from the professor at the beginning of the class had left him feeling proud.


“Always ahead,” Soojung half whispers from beside him, a slanted smirk on her face as she glances over at his notes.


“You could be too if you put in the effort,” Luhan tells her, looking from the professor to his fellow classmate. She’s very pretty, capturing the hearts of the other men in the class easily with her confidence and sex appeal. Luhan hadn’t found it hard to talk to her, unlike he’d heard some of the other men whispering about.


“I prefer to keep sane,” Soojung says, her tongue curling behind her teeth as her eyebrows raise nonchalantly. “I have other things to do beside class work and a few Student government duties.”


“A cappella is hardly life preparing extra-curricular activity,” Luhan informs her as the professor dismisses them, the chairs scraping back as the class makes to leave. Luhan pushes himself up easily, straightening himself and fixing his jacket as it hangs from his shoulders. “Truly vigorous and taxing.” He nods to the professor who smiles and speaks a brief moment of praise, thanking Luhan for getting his paper in so punctually.


“Show off,” Soojung sighs as Luhan smiles perfectly at the professor and she walks to the door.


“Not a show off,” Luhan corrects her, striding easily from class and catching his reflection in the windows. He absently fixes his appearance, the transparent image of himself setting back into immaculately groomed acceptability. He smiles, winking at himself and catches Soojung rolling her eyes behind him. “I’m just flawless.”


“Have you seen yourself when you laugh?” Soojung asks, scoffing slightly as Luhan straightens his shoulders and walks from the room with her. He frowns slightly at the comment. “That’s anything but flawless. I’ve seen goats more attractive than you laughing.”


“You really know how to flatter a guy,” Luhan tells her and the smile she throws back at him speaks of true indifference. Soojung is different, harder than most of the girls he knows who tend to open up to him before he’s ready to listen and lean in fascinated as he speaks. It’s jarring to be with her, irritating sometimes, but it works in a strange sort of way in that she’s one of the only girls who can take some of his humor.


“Why do you think I have so many boyfriends?” she asks, a smirk on her lips as she throws her long black hair over her shoulder with practiced ease.


Luhan laughs, surprising himself as he shakes his head. The two of them make a bit of a pair, sharing only a few classes but being the center of the stares; the beauties of the classes he heard whispered once. Luhan isn’t a food, knows he’s handsome and given a definite advantage in his looks. He’d be an idiot to not realize that Soojung is gorgeous.


“Speaking of…” Soojung says, a beautiful smile spreading over her lips as she looks over Luhan’s shoulder at someone and Luhan turns, expecting to see one of the many nameless suitors which Soojung seems to keep on a rotation. His breath falters in his lungs when he recognizes the dancer, the one from the show with Yixing, smiling with a sort of childish happiness about him walking towards them. “Jonginnie!” Soojung waves, a light laugh tinkling into the air as her fingers wave cutely.


Luhan stands, not moving as Soojung pauses and waits for Jongin, as Luhan had remembered his name to be, to draw level with them. “Hello,” comes out in a smooth rich voice as dark brown eyes with full lashes glance at him, flickering to Soojung for a moment and Luhan can finally see Jongin up close. He’s gorgeous, smooth skin peppered only in a few spots with the remnants of teenage skin, full lips that looks soft and perfect and bone structure that Luhan himself is envious of.


“Do you not know each other?” Soojung asks, her tone mocking surprise as she looks between the two men before her. Jongin blinks and Luhan turns, feeling his skin prickling, to look at her.


“Not everyone knows each other,” he says, aware of Jongin shifting before him, standing tall and straight, his broad shoulders impressive. In the corner of his eye, he can see his face relaxed, indifference and vague disinterest on his features as he drags his full lower lip between his teeth. “Just because you do.”


“All this drama,” Soojung huffs, slapping Luhan on the arm with another roll of her eyes, the hit not that hard and more playful than anything. “Luhan, this is Jongin. He’s on the dance team with Yixing so it’s stupid you haven’t met him before.” Luhan flashes her a look that she sends back with a significant rise to one eyebrow. “Anyway, Jongin, this is Luhan. He’s a dick.”


Luhan coughs, not expecting the introduction from Soojung in the slightest, turning to her with a burn over his cheeks and shock in his system. She flashes back a smile, bright and cheerful as she pats him gently on the back in what may be assumed as a reassuring fashion. He turns to Jongin, who is looking at him with slightly widened eyes. “I’m not a dick,” Luhan says, extending his hand in greeting. “Just in case you were confused. Hi, Jongin. It’s nice to meet you.”


“Likewise,” is the soft and rich reply that greets him as Jongin’s hand, a light smile playing around his pretty mouth as his eyes shift into a warmth that seems to spill into the air around them. “Yixing has talked about you. Sometimes. Don’t mind Soojung so much, she just likes to have people think she’s scary and find out she likes the color pink too much.”


“Shut up,” Soojung says, though the venom isn’t in her voice as she swats Jongin on the arm and he laughs even as he flinches away slightly, stepping away fro her out and out of the line of attack. It’s cute.


“I actually saw the showcase,” Luhan continues, drawing Jongin’s eyes back to himself and smiling at him, feeling a draw towards him. He’s curious. Extremely curious about him and he wants to find out more. Jongin’s eyes widen. “It was amazing, you dance incredibly well.”


“I have to go,” Soojung announces, catching Jongin off guard and Luhan turns to her, missing the light pink that spreads over Jongin’s cheek as he looks at Soojung. She winks at him, the quirk to her lips telling him nothing but of her own excessive self-confidence. “I have to meet up with Song Qian for a project but I’ll see you for dinner?” She adds the last bit with a significant look at Jongin, shaking her hair from her face.


“I thought we were hanging out now,” Jongin says, the small frown forming between his eyebrows endearing, his face taking expressions well, is soft dark hair framing his face nicely.


“Change of plans,” Soojung says, already moving away, her heels clicking against the linoleum floor as she flashes Jongin and Luhan a brilliant smile. “Have Luhan entertain you instead. He’s interesting sometimes.”


“Thanks,” Luhan calls after her, knowing the snap in her tone and the brusque words mean very little. It’s just who she is. She blows him a kiss before spinning on her heel and walking away, down the hall and leaving Jongin to Luhan.


“I meant it, you know,” Luhan says, turning back to Jongin with a perfect smile stretching over his lips, charming and beautiful. The light dusting of rose against Jongin’s high cheeks is pleasant, something Luhan could get used to seeing and wanting to make happen more. “About the dancing.”


“Oh,” Jongin says, gasping out the word as if only just catching up to Luhan and his words. “Really?”


It’s very cute, flattering even how Jongin seems to stutter at the praise, his lips twitching up in a smile and completely unassuming about his own amazing talents. “Yeah,” Luhan says, shifting to an easier stance. “I don't think I’ve ever seen anyone dance like you dance. It was breathtaking, you looked beautiful up on stage.” He laughs, enjoying the darker definite blush that brushes over Jongin’s beautiful face. “Do you make a habit of that?”


Jongin blinks at him. “Of what?”


“Blushing when someone compliments you.” Eyes widening, Jongin opens his mouth, the onset of what Luhan is sure is either denial or sputtering unnecessary. “It’s fine,” he says, quickly. “I don’t mind. It’s cute.”


Jongin frowns briefly. “I’m not cute.” The lower jut of his lip speaks the opposite. “You’re the one everyone calls cute, even Yixing.” His eyes widen again as he realizes what he’s said, mouth snapping shut as Luhan’s brows rise.


“Am I?” he asks, more to himself but the blush on Jongin’s cheeks tells him all he needs to know and them more.




◦❀◦





It's not that hard this time, already having something in mind as he lets the sickly sweet taste of the drink in his hand slide down his throat to settle in his stomach and spider through his veins. Minseok isn't here tonight to give him looks that either are indifferent or disapproving and Yixing is already wasted, having been assaulted by his friends from the music department and making more noise than Luhan had ever though his best friend could at a party like this.


In other cases, Luhan might have joined them, but tonight, his eyes are elsewhere, his attention on other things. Other people.


"Hey." Jongin turns, looking surprised to be address and Luhan greets him with a smile, handing him one of the cool bottles of beer from the fridge. He has no idea if Jongin should be drinking, probably underage, but he doesn't really care now. Jongin is at the party and regardless of if he's underage, he'd still be drinking tonight. There is no getting around that.


"Hi!" Jongin says, a pleased and slightly hesitant spread of his lips flash teeth at Luhan that has him satisfied. "I didn't think I'd see you here." He laughs lightly. "I don't think I've seen you at the parties before."


"I pick and choose," Luhan says, stepping closer to Jongin as people push past him, letting himself ease nearer to the dancer under the pretext of consideration. "Usually I just tag along with Yixing to whatever parties he wants to go to, which is like throwing darts in the dark sometimes." He laughs. "Most often, Yixing would rather lie in his dorm room playing guitar or composing rather than go out and party hard."


"I don't blame him," Jongin replies with a smile before he falters, as if regretting the admission. "Not that I don't mind partying, I just don't do it much. I'm only here tonight because of friends." He gestures to the young man he had been talking with, a bright blond who smiles with a sort of plasticine essence about him. Jongin lets out a small laugh. "I guess we're both here because our friends have more interest in our social welfare than we do."


"Isn't that what friends are for?" Luhan asks. There's something about him, about the way that Jongin holds himself with amazing posture, shoulders back and eased, his already impressive build given more weight and appeal as he seems completely unaware of himself and the presence he holds. It makes Luhan envious but without the negativity he might associate with the feeling, more of in an admiration in that despite how Jongin seems so perfectly assembled and handsome, he's surprisingly soft and easy to speak with, nothing of the brash and radiating confidence Luhan saw on stage.


He rather likes Jongin as this far more than he was initially drawn to the enigma lit up in light and with eyes that spoke seduction rather than nothing but amusement and smiles.


It's easy to lose track of time with Jongin, Luhan pulling words from him as he gently strokes against the ego which is far smaller than he expected, Jongin making a few jokes which remind him vaguely of Yifan but they make far less sense, something about them innocently adorable. He stumbles around a little, seeming nervous as he tries to please, grabbing Luhan another drink when his friend, introduced as Taemin, asks for another. Luhan smiles as Taemin is forgotten once in the kitchen and Jongin instead begins telling him about himself.


It hadn't taken long to get him to open up, enough of Luhan listening and keeping his attention on him, asking the right questions and laughing, Jongin apparently finding him just as funny as Luhan finds himself. Jongin rambles when he talks, telling Luhan about his double major in music performance and economics and how his roommates are far too annoying for him to listen to his music over. He tells Luhan about his love of dance, his long history with it and how it makes him happy as Luhan notices how he never seems to be able to stop moving, small movements of his legs and his hands, the flush of excitement showing in his cheeks as he explains how music moves him rather than he moving to it.


"Do you know what it's like to have a constant soundtrack in life?" he asks, and Luhan finds himself drawn in, to the boy who is young but so full of life, so full of energy and spilling his heart out breathlessly.


"No," Luhan says, putting down his empty cup. It's been drunk for a while as he watched Jongin's mouth move and his eyes shine in the light of the room and intoxicated himself on that instead. "But maybe you can teach me sometime." That beautiful flush crawls over Jongin's cheeks at Luhan's words, his eyes flickering to Luhan's lips noticeably and a warmth nudges into Luhan's gut as a pink tongue pokes out to wet full lips.


"Sometime, yeah," Jongin says, dropping his gaze and his hands fidget before him. Luhan is pretty sure they'll make time.


The party swells and fades around them, the music changing and Jongin moving to it almost constantly. Luhan is attracted to him, staring down others that approach, that try to step into his time with Jongin and compromise his claim on the other boy. Jongin seems oblivious, only noticing nearly an hour after how Taemin, his best friend, had vanished. Luhan likes it better this way, Jongin's attention focused on him and curious, seeming surprised at points that Luhan is still there, talking with him, or just standing with him in comfortable silence as the warmth builds in him and the intoxicating feeling of Jongin's stronger presence beside him makes him heady.


It's past two in the morning by the time Luhan manages to get room on the couch, sitting down with Jongin and letting their thighs brush, the warmth of Jongin's body seeping into him and making his focus skip between Jongin talking sleepily about his friends and dance company, about his studies, and getting lost in the movement of his mouth and the deep hue of his eyes. Luhan doesn't realize Jongin has stopped talking until the light touch at his knee, pulling him to attention as he looks back at Jongin, who looks sleepy but is still here. His eyes droop and it does nothing but strengthen his allure, the warmth from his body increasing Luhan's as he feels a twist and in his chest and the itch in his fingers to reach forward and touch.


"Luhan?" Jongin's voice is like velvet, deep and rich and husky with sleep as he looks at him in question, a small crease to his forehead and Luhan's breath shortens.


"Jongin," Luhan says, looking at the dancer before him, barely into his first college experience and reaches to wrap his fingers around Jongin's at his knee, the skin warm and surprisingly soft. Jongin's eyes flicker, never leaving his as his fingers move to grip back, to hold his tighter and it's exactly where Luhan wants them.


A soft gasp is all that leaves the young man's mouth, head tilting back as he looks up with parted lips and that beautiful flush on his face, skin warm, almost hot, under Luhan's hands as he cradles his face, thighs spread as he settles over Jongin's lap. The space he had previously sat seconds before beings to cool as he feels a rush of heat through him, the pull of Jongin swallowing him in just as he drinks down the soft moan from Jongin's throat as their lips meet and tan fingers clench into the shirt bunched at his waist.


Jongin tastes like beer and youth, the beautiful tainting of something once pure and in the process of being unmade, addicting against Luhan's tongue as he laps for more, fingers threading into soft brown hair and wanting more, needing more, eyes closed and feeling rather than seeing. Jongin lets out a sigh against Luhan's lips, hands warm and resting on his waist, keeping him there. He smiles, eyes hazy and the puff of breath against Luhan's lips has him knowing this isn't fine, this is far from it.


He smiles, leaning in to steal another breath.




◦❀◦





"What did you do this week?"


He doesn't care. Restless today he fidgets, not caring about how he looks in the eyes of the woman before him and her nylons and navy pumps. He couldn't care less about what she thinks about him right now, if she noticed how his hair has been styled up and to the side perfectly or how his skin is flawless and cared for meticulously.


"Class." Who cares about answering. He has other things to be doing, other people he'd rather be spending his time with. Luhan has a 200 page reading assignment due next Wednesday sitting on his desk and an unanswered text message from Jongin in his phone which burns against his skin through his pocket.


"Anything else?" she asks, completely patient and Luhan wants to walk out, to leave the office and it's perfectly set furniture selected for ease and boring and nothing out of the ordinary, a place where he doesn't belong. Swallowed in the mundane when he should be out.


"Why does it matter?" He's so sick of this. It's habit now to come and sit for exactly 55 minutes but he's sick of it now and he hates being here almost as much as he hates the sickening jolt and seizure from looking down and seeing the world so far beneath him and waiting for him to rush up to meet it.


She blinks, the first time that he's ever seen a reaction from her. Almost, with a slight curiosity, he wonders if he can make her do it again. "Well, that's up to you. This time is for you. To talk about what you want and what you're comfortable with. This time is for you to talk about what you need to talk about. I'm not interviewing you Luhan and I don't want to hear anything from you I just want to listen."


"You're not being paid to listen." Money slowly trickling needlessly out of a bank account that isn't his and going for a stupid purpose. He nearly gets up, walks away, and leaves this nonsense. He has more important things to be.


"Sure I am." She's speaking differently today. Luhan isn't used to it and it's slightly jarring. His phone vibrates and his heart skips in his chest, a flash of a beautifully smiling face before his eyes. So handsome and so alive. "I'm paid to sit here and listen to what you have to say. If you don't want to talk, we can just sit here and I can talk, but I doubt you really want that."


"Why not?"


"Because there are more important things in your life than hearing me talk about whether I like dogs over cats."


"I don't care between them."


"Why?"


"Because they're just animals." A brilliant smile as a cell phone background is shown with three puppies clustered on the screen, a deep voice rising in pitch as it gets excited and speaks too fast around the words and gushes over the animals on the screen. "Jongin likes dogs," is out of his mouth before he can stop the information.


"Who is Jongin?" barely a lapse in composure. But Luhan can't care, his mind spilling over itself.


"My boyfriend." Lips lush and full and pressed against his as kisses that seem far too breathless to be real lay against his mouth. "He likes dogs." A lot. He sighs at puppies and looks at them like he looks at Luhan sometimes, like he's so in love with him his heart might break at just a simple brush of air against it. It makes Luhan breathless.


"When did you meet him?"


Two weeks ago. At a party but he's a dancer who Luhan met at Yixing's dance performance and couldn't stop staring at. He's a freshman and handsome and likes to read comic books but also do things like go out on the weekends rather that lose himself in the endless cycle of campus parties and laughs at stupid television and his own jokes. He can't breathe for amusement at Luhan's humor and thinks he's a genius when he talks and constantly dreams of being something more than he is and never stops working hard to be amazing.


He's handsome and strong and always there when Luhan needs him, listening when Luhan talks and smiling when he's impressed, which is always. He kisses Luhan when he wants him to and holds his hand possessively to show everyone else that he's taken and lets Luhan touch him even when it's far beyond what someone might usually do.


It's been two weeks since Luhan climbed into a sleepy Jongin's lap and sealed their mouths together and swept Jongin off his feet and around his fingers, since Luhan's breath caught and drank in the lingering smell about the other man and felt alive when he spoke and reveled in how Jongin forgot about other people when Luhan was with him and he says all of this without realizing it. His therapist watches him, barely moving as she lets him speak and his words fall over themselves, his own enthusiasm curling up in his chest as he talks and feels brighter and stronger with each word.


"So, it sounds like he really likes you," she says, and she smiles, red tinted lips stretching in a pleasant pull and Luhan's breath fills his lungs completely. "Like you've found someone that really looks up to you."


"He does," Luhan says, smiling and not caring how large it is. It doesn't matter, he's excellent and someone sees him as such, someone looks at him and sees more than they've ever seen and Jongin is all his.


"And what do you think about him?" the next question drifts as Luhan's eyes return to her's, hidden behind the glasses perched on her nose perfectly. "Do you feel the same way about him?"


"He's my boyfriend," Luhan says, feeling a bit numb at the question.


"So you feel the same?"


It's a stupid question. "Sure." Brown eyes which watch him with a dedication and connection that stops his breath and makes his heart pound as he feels truly, entirely, amazing.




◦❀◦





"I'm right here." It's lunch. "Sitting here beside you." They're in one of the local restaurants surrounding the campus, the modern interior garish against the old wooden floor that needs polishing or refinishing, something to help it from it's current exhausted state. "In real life, in the real world as your real friend." His phone is in his hands and half a sandwich sits on the plate before him, barely touched and the dissected partner abandoned and crusts remaining. "Breathing and living and being completely ignored."


Luhan's fingers brush over the messages on his phone, the images, the words and the emoticons and the symbols of Korean text that he's learned to interpret as laughter and embarrassment. It's a translation exercise in commitment. "I'm not ignoring you," Luhan tells Minseok as he doesn't look up from his phone, waiting for the small yellow number at the edge of his latest text to disappear.


“This feels a lot like ignoring,” Minseok grumbles and Luhan jumps and scrambles as his fingers suddenly grab his phone from him, panic racing through him as it’s pulled out of his reach.


“Give that back.”


“What the hell is with this guy, anyway?” Minseok muses, looking over the phone and his fingers pushing along the screen, scrolling through messages as rushing begins in Luhan’s hears, his eyes on his phone. “Is he made out of pheromones or something? Yixing talks about him like an obedient puppy or something.”


“Yixing sings to himself and talks about garbage disposals being good dramatic tools in song lyrics,” Luhan snaps, grabbing his phone back swiftly and checking the messages. To ensure Minseok hasn’t done anything, his pulse calming as he sees nothing and then smiles when he sees the small number one missing. Good.


“But he is an excellent judge of people,” Minseok points out, still watching Luhan. Luhan wishes he’d back off, right now, he has other things on his mind
come join us
. Luhan’s foot taps absently against the ground, a new song and rhythm that he’d heard on the radio, Jongin moving absently beside him, close and skin brushing against his. “Even you say so yourself.”


Rather than answer, Luhan looks up, the message on the screen registering as he looks to the windows and scans through the glass for a familiar figure, barely noticing the shadows of the people in the small sandwich shop that reflect back to him in the weak December sun. He smiles as he sees a familiar figure walking into view.


Jongin’s eyes find him almost immediately upon stepping into the shop, his coat open and suggesting the weather to be much warmer than it is. Jongin runs hot, something that is so nice when Luhan comes to him after a taxing day and is able to press his hands to his firm chest.


His hands are always warm as they wrap around Luhan’s, lips soft as they press against his and body strong and toned as Luhan’s hands run over it.


It’s been two and a half weeks.


Across the table, Minseok’s eyebrows are raised at him in a mix of expressions Luhan doesn’t have the patience nor time to bother deciphering. “Do you ever wear enough clothing?” Luhan asks, his eyes settling on the lines of Jongin’s well sculpted chest under his shirt, his collarbones impressive and shoulders perfectly broad and defined.


A vision of a person, sculpted and crafted by hands that could hardly be human and with a heart so sweet and caring it threw Luhan initially when he first really talked to Jongin and listened, willing himself not to be distracted by the gently touch of Jongin’s hand on his arm.


Jongin greets him with a kiss, knowing from very little time that it’s what Luhan expects.


touch me prove i’m real


“It’s not that cold out,” Jongin says, looking at Luhan and only Luhan as he smiles and makes to sit down, coat already shrugging down his arms. He’s so graceful, sinking into the chair as if built to do nothing but move with the appearance of effortless grace. “Plus, I was only outside for a short time. It’s not like I needed a lot of layers.”


“Your boyfriend is inhuman,” Minseok says under his breath. Luhan looks to him, his friend wearing two layers and his coat still wrapped around his shoulders, hat and gloves sitting on the table beside him. Minseok never took cold that well. “Hi,” says Minseok, noticing the attention on him, his eyes flickering to Jongin. “Minseok. Don’t know if you remember me.”


“You’re one of Luhan’s friends,” Jongin says, seated with his thigh brushing Luhan’s under the table and his fingers finding Luhan’s, out of sight and twining together. “I remember.”


“Good boy,” Luhan teases, brushing Jongin’s hair out of his eyes with a smile that broadens as Jongin’s voice catches up into a light laugh, his eyes creasing in amusement as he leans gently into the touch. “Did you eat?”


Minseok doesn’t keep him, simply reminding him of the music performance on the weekend and how Luhan needs to remember to sleep and eat before he wears himself out. Finals are in a week. Luhan has to remember.


Don’t get distracted.


His hand warm and wrapped in Jongin’s fingers, the feeling of his shoulders under his hands as he reaches up to just touch, to lay his fingers over the structure that composes Jongin’s body and Jongin’s fingers lace with his. They’ve dedicated the afternoon to studying, something which Minseok backs out of extremely fast and Luhan doesn’t question him, attention divided.


Yixing doesn’t call to meet up, or perhaps he does and Luhan never noticed as he was preoccupied by Jongin and his irritation with clothing, shedding upon arriving in Luhan’s room before collapsing on the bed with a sigh. Shirtless, shoeless and warm nestled in the sheets, Luhan admires him. The flawless stretch of skin, the slope of spine to neck and ass, the beautiful body before him.


A hand extended with fingers reaching for him, beckoning for him and only him and it's winter but everything is too hot and fixated in a vacuum. “Luhan,” is breathless as his own shirt pulls over his head, skin prickling in the air as he takes the hand seeking him. Exploring skin has never been as enrapturing as it is with Jongin, who curls and never pushes but bends to Luhan without protest.


The perfect tone of a body before him, sculpted from hours of dancing and exertion. His own skin in contrast against the richness of Jongin’s, a yin and yang of flawless perfection.


His chest smooth and flat, muscles barely showing beneath the smooth pale skin as Jongin’s hands gently brush over it and the pages of academic work lie in wait. His eyes linger on Jongin, drinking him in, and mapping out, memorizing all the ways that he is. His own hands run over his own skin, feeling the difference between them and his stomach twists so tight there is no air in him anymore.




◦❀◦





The reflection in the mirror looks back at him, fingers spreading down a chest that has begun to show, the faint lines of strength visible in the glass as they run down, tracing with eyes down a long firm chest. Arms begun to tone, the muscles there growing and showing the time and effort, making that which was once acceptable impressive. The perfect long of a torso melting into a waist, hips defined and drawing down to disappear to the dark waistband of his jeans, the skin unmarred and flawless. The beginnings of stomach muscles twitch under gentle fingers and he breathes, watching his chest rise and fall.


It’s different from the other times when put under physical scrutiny. Now, rather than a simple evaluation of health and acceptability, it’s for perfection, for beauty and the slow efforts and persistence is beginning to show. A smirk crawls over lips wet and pink as his breaths come slightly too fast and eyes dance in light.


“When was the last time you ate?” Yixing asks from the bed, his eyes on Luhan’s stomach as he flips through a magazine in his lap. “I didn’t see you at breakfast.”


“I went early,” Luhan tells him, eyes still on the mirror at the back of the door, standing and turning his head to the side, running fingers along the line of his jaw in meticulous calculation. Perfect. “I figured you would be sleeping in, considering you finished your exams yesterday and are going home tonight.”


It’s the end of exams and Luhan hasn’t slept, his final exam having been this morning and after finishing it was followed up by a trip to the gym and a fast shower. He’d been doing some light packing as he wandered around his room, taking a moment to breath and idly chatting with Jongin when Yixing had shown up. The winter air against his bare skin makes the hair rise, a rush going over him and a shiver but it’s pleasant, the cold sending a thrill through him that makes him smile.


“When are you going home?” Yixing asks, stretching further on Luhan’s bed and it tests his resolve not to shove him off, patience always tested when Yixing forgets every time. Sacred space reserved for himself and those he allows and lets into that part of his life. Once, Yixing had been allowed, but it seems that Yixing seemed to be unable to get out of the habit.


“Friday. Get off my bed.”


“I’m just lying here. I showered already this morning, I’m not a plague rat.”


Luhan’s eyes harden. “Off. Or I’ll remove you.”


“With all your new muscles and flexing?” The light in Yixing’s eyes is teasing and, while Luhan might be irritated, might pass it off, or, in this case, bring a smile to him that has Yixing’s mouth opening to a small circle. It shows. “I still can’t believe you’re turning into a juicer.”


“I’m not a jui- It’s exercise,” Luhan laughs. “You work out daily.”


“Not like a body builder and obsessing over myself in the mirror,” Yixing retorts and Luhan snorts out a laugh, turning back to the mirror. Two days until he has to go home. Two days until he leaves, until he walks from campus for a month only to return and throw himself back into the lifestyle with poise and dignity.


“I do not obsess,” Luhan informs him, pushing his hair back from his face and smirking at himself. Good.


“Fine then,” Yixing scoffs, nothing bothering to move from the bed as Luhan approaches him, still shirt bare and with his arms folded over his chest. “I don’t work out like a body builder and preen at myself in the mirror. Obsessively checking out how good I look.” He snuffles into high laughter as Luhan lunges to drag him off his bed, ending up getting dragged down instead as Yixing laughs and laughs, hands pulling at Luhan’s bare skin and tugging him close.


“Let go,” Luhan huffs irritably, trying to push Yixing off of himself, the tug against his skin and over him annoying and unnecessary. “I have stuff to do.”


“You do not,” Yixing laughs at him, trying to work Luhan around to get him to rest with him, to relax and splay on the bed with him, hand resting at his hip like it so often and easily does without thought. A slow burn of irritation begins to crawl up Luhan’s chest and turns sour. “Stuff more important than your best friend?”


“Yes,” Luhan says, and Yixing’s hands falter against him, losing their strength and falling back, a brief look at his face showing the flash of hurt across it. A brief pass of the emotion and then it’s gone, Yixing falling limp against the bed and Luhan still propped beside him, looking down at his face which has relaxed into indifference.


“Oh,” Yixing says and then rolls off the bed, away and Luhan feels cold. Then Yixing smiles, warm and full of his typical life. It isn’t anything that can be helped, Luhan knowing that Yixing tends to be a bit more sensitive on this part. It’ll all pass. “I should get going,” Yixing says, stretching so his shirt rides up, flashing a bit of his stomach to the room and Luhan’s eyes linger on it.


Yixing, like Jongin, rarely wears enough clothing for it to be remotely acceptable, instead dressing for temperatures far warmer and flashing skin that others hide. The difference is that Jongin does it and barely notices whereas Yixing does and then cowers. They both are toned and refined enough in their bodies however that the reason to be ashamed of their bodies escapes Luhan, Jongin at least never seeming aware of embarrassment linked to his physique.


A physique which Luhan envies a bit, his fingers gently drifting to draw over his chest and sending a light shiver through him before he stands. All in time, the image in the mirror improving daily as he holds his head higher. “Nap in your own bed,” Luhan tells Yixing, sweeping the other’s eyes back to him as he reaches up, brushing Yixing’s soft hair from his face. It’s getting so long again. He smiles. “You’ll be more comfortable there.”


Yixing blinks, and something shifts behind his eyes that Luhan only notices. “You never care when I let you crash with me,” he says, voice soft.


“Go rest,” Luhan tells him, his fingers leaving Yixing’s hair as he steps back. He is meeting Jongin for a late lunch. He should find a shirt, see if Jongin notices, see if Jongin smiles and tells him what he already knows about himself. “You’re exhausted.”




◦❀◦





His skin is slick with sweat, running down his neck and back, sticking to his chest and plastering his clothing to his skin as he walks from the lockers, the gym dark and closed and he the last to leave. His body burns, the ache of exertion a dull throb along his muscles and settling into his bones. Luhan is tired, but it is a pleasant sort of weariness that settles over him and presses down at his shoulders just as strongly as it makes them stretch just a bit further up, broader, stronger and more impressive.


Firming with his back and stance, thighs strong and tense as his back holds him perfectly and his shoulders fit beside Jongin’s and fill him out. Perfectly.


His cheeks burn, the sweat at his hairline instantly cooling as he steps into the winter air and walks home, uncaring of the winter bite and air and pulling his phone from his pocket.


To: Jongin - are you free?



The shower beats hot against Luhan’s skin, turning it pretty and red, his reflection fogged when he checks it later and tilts his head from side to side. He doesn’t bother styling, instead slipping into a pair of skinny jeans that show off his legs, the light white cotton of his shirt casually sexy as he grabs a leather jacket that might be too light for the weather outside.


The flush in his cheeks is still there when Jongin opens his eyes, sleep clearing from them as he takes in Luhan’s smiling face and the damp ends of his hair.


“You look so amazing,” Jongin murmurs as Luhan stands breathless, hair tousled and panting slightly, his shirt tugged over his head hastily and Jongin’s eyes leaving a burning trail over him as they take him in. Drink him in all and whole. “You always look so amazing.” Their eyes meet. “You are amazing.”


Luhan breathes free and pulls Jongin down to meet his mouth with feverish fire in his veins.




○❂○





67.

It’s kind of weird when people talk about what it means to be the best. Some people categorize it as that which is most well known. They talk about celebrities that fuck on screen either fake or real, they talk about athletes who abandon their academic career for the pursuit of a physical degree of success. People talk about making themselves feel better, saying they are the best, that they are because they are who they are and that’s all they can be and it makes me sick and laugh.


How can you be perfect being a lazy slob at home? You aren’t perfect. You’re a lazy slob and you are exactly what you have done nothing to remedy. You are substandard and if you suffer for that then good. You deserve it. Anyone who doesn’t bother to work hard and strive to be the best person that they are deserves the shit hole of life that they get.


Perfect isn’t something you are, it is something you become. I learned that a long time ago, technically we’re all drilled into it. We're forced into learning what is perfect by education and our elders telling us what it is to be the best. We are graded until we learn to do it ourselves, we are evaluated until we learn how to force ourselves to push the barriers of acceptability and become more than they could ever aspire to be.


Watch athletes fail and learn from their mistakes. Watch those around us and figure out where you work and how you can become what it is you need to in order to rise above them. Perfection is something created, not initially manifested.


Perfection is something you do, to yourself, to the things around you. Perfection is control. Perfection is what you make yourself. Working tirelessly and nearly bleeding out as you strain. As I strain. I will be perfect. I know how to be and I will be and there is that ability in me and I will. Be. PErfeCt.





◦❀◦





“Are you going home for vacation?”


Luhan smiles, a breath leaving him easily as he reclines, at ease and calm on the couch. The room is pleasantly warm, a delightful contrast to the snow falling gently down outside through the brisk winter air. “Today,” he answers.


“You must be happy.”


A home with familiar white walls and silences smelling of lavender and the subtle undertones of roses, a room he’s memorized and revisits in his dreams when he has them. A home that will be quiet and calm and filled with warm air and gently creaking floorboards as the winter settles around it in a soft blanket of white. “Yes.”


His mother’s hands gently folding cards and turning the pages of books, her lips pressed in a line as her eyes drag over words and mouth along in troubled spots when she gets caught. Frost spreading over his window, fogging in the evening as white moonlight pools through to him.


Twenty days. Four of them spent alone entirely and the others all occupied by the announcement he has yet to vocalize.


“Will you be seeing your friends over your vacation?”


“Yes,” Luhan says, his attention drawing from his thoughts. “I’m seeing a few.” Zitao coming over as is customary for family gatherings and holidays, the vacation season stretching just for the proper period of time that Zitao will be around. Minseok and Yixing promised to visit. His smile spreads as he thinks of Jongin coming to visit, of going to see him in the city, of having more warmth over a Christmas that always feels lacking.


“What about Jongin?” Luhan’s smile widens, spreading to it’s full strength and the warmth of the room seems to settle in his chest, expanding as he thinks of the careful way Jongin twines their fingers and pulls him close, keeping him and always waiting, looking, watching, needing him and giving him whatever it is Luhan may ask.


“Yeah,” he answer, the thrill that never seemed to stop as it pumped into his veins from first watching Jongin dance to meeting him with Soojung humming through him. “I am.” Days talked about while Jongin melted into his side and his fingers ran through the soft brown hair atop his head.


“How is that going?”


The question feels harsh, invasive and Luhan snaps his eyes to her. She has on a pearl necklace, draped down her neck and gorgeous. “Us?” It feels bitter and judged. Luhan unconsciously bristles.


“Yes, how are you and Jongin doing? I know you had a lot of work for exams and he was exhausted after his own finals and the end of the dance performances.”


Relax and breathe. Who wouldn’t be interested in how he and Jongin are doing? Jongin is wonderful, caring and sweet and kind, listening to Luhan as he becomes more and more comfortable in the eyes that look and only speak of love when Luhan smiles upon him.


“We’re good.” The smile is unrestrained, it can’t be contained. Luhan is too happy to let it, the emotion filling him as his hand runs absently up his arm, strong and toned and muscled. “We’re very good. I’m very happy.”


“And so is Jongin.”


“Of course he’s happy,” Luhan laughs, loud and clear and unsure whether he’s laughing at the statement or her. Both.


She smiles, the red of her painted lips stretching over her teeth. “I’m glad,” she says. “You look very good, Luhan.”


Coyly he smiles back, eyes dancing in amusement as that swell in his chest burgeons further. “I always look good,” he tells her.




◦❀◦





There is a light dusting of snow on the ground outside the house, the light soft flakes falling down silently and bringing the world into a gentle comforting state of beauty. The lights in the house are on, a customary Christmas wreath hung at the door and waiting with welcome. Luhan’s breath fogs before him, listening to the taxi that delivered him drive away.


It’s a nice image, like something off of one of those stereotypical greeting or Christmas cards.


This time, his mother is waiting for him when he opens the door. This time, she sweeps him into a hug, eyes shining bright and he smiles without thinking at her, feeling warmer than the air of the house and the sweet and savory aroma of food amid the lavender. This time, she asks him questions, babbling away and walking with him up to his room and her eyes are shining.


It’s abrupt and so different and all the things that Luhan had never expected when coming home aside from a meal and a kiss and the voice at the back of his mind wonders aloud to him. Push it back, push it down, make it stop.


The house is warm, the holiday decorations are beautifully strung and his room is warm and lit when he walks to it to drop his travel bag onto the bed, for once not caring.


“You should eat up,” his mother tells him, watching him at dinner and smiling gently. “Something to help with all that muscle you’ve put on. I don't remember you ever looking like this.”


“Like what?” Joking questions and easier conversation than he’s had in years. Things are good, his life is good, everything is good. “Handsome?” He grins at the jest.


His mother laughs, the sound high and pretty and far more free than it has been in so long. “Luhan, you’ve always been handsome.” She smiles. “My handsome boy.”


such a wonderful boy


An unexpected tension snaps through him, tightening around his arms, clenching the muscles in his abdomen and seizing up his back. It’s a spasm, nothing significant and the brief hitch in his breath, the reaction goes unnoticed and Luhan’s mother continues talking, her hand resting on Luhan’s arm, fingers glittering with pretty simplistically elegant rings gentle and soft.


Soft pretty hands and gorgeous features and a face that men swooned after, following admirers and lovers. A legacy which he’s following in his own manner even if the family resemblance isn’t as striking as he might wish. She has the strong jaw and the larger long shoulders that he does and his eyes linger on them.


Tall broad shoulders that are stiffening with muscle and sinew, stronger and getting stronger as every day passes and every weight is held in his hands.


“Are you finished?” startles him out of his thoughts, head shaking as he looks down at his plate, the serving missing and he blinks, unaware he had been eating at all. He can feel it settling in the base of his stomach, heavy and leadened and he swallows down the last sticky remnants.


“Yes.”


Standing in the room later, his mother in her own room and far beyond the house since she fell asleep, Luhan stands and stares, breathing slightly heavier as he looks in the mirror to the light sheen of sweat that glistens on his chest, down his neck and just barely lights on the skin of his stomach.


Handsome. Impressive.


Darkness shades as his eyes close, focusing on breathing and relaxing, letting the familiar feeling and smell of his room seep into him, calm him down and settle. In a mockery of a movie film, images of Jongin, his body moving in perfection, the stretch of muscle and bone and flesh under skin, the immaculate construction which would bring envy from any other. The toning and careful maintenance that has mouths watering and Luhan’s blood picking up pace, warming him as his body awakens to the thought of it.


Jongin standing with him, Jongin chest against his chest and the slowly shrinking differences, the strength that comes with Jongin slowly showing in himself, the visual image from moments before to him in glass coming back and replacing Jongin.


Handsome. Impressive. Losing the flaws which so plagued it in the past.


Fingers push back the hair from his face, pushing back and raking through damp with sweat from now habitual evening exercise conditioning that firms muscle and has begun to leave the definite lines over his once softer body. It looks good. He looks good.


Running fingers along lips, the lines of his nose and the planes of cheeks and a forehead and over brows, a exhale billows out of his chest. Features once called delicate, weak, too fragile to become anything and effeminate. He’s not pretty. Luhan has never been pretty, though his features may have a definition to them which is not typical. Never pretty.


The muscles now standing in clearing definition along his chest and forming along the lines of his stomach, flattening it and turning him to steel, are what he really is.


Perfect.


such a wonderful, beautiful boy


Breath sharpening and eyes snapping shut and stumbling down the hall to grasp for a faucet and pound scalding water against his skin, burning away the sound of anything save for heavy breaths and water pummeling against skin, turning it violently crimson.


Water dripping from skin and spreading the floor in the mockery of rain, the windows and walls are masked by steam, the barrier on all surfaces blocking off eyes to look back into his and see him for what he really is.




◦❀◦





The sound of Jongin’s laugh is beautiful, unlike anything Luhan could have expected. He laughs with his whole self, as if nothing could stop him from doing so and neither does he imagine it ever will be ended without his consent. It’s beautiful, like him, a gorgeous mix of the strong and soft, all visual intimidation and power and within a sweet and gentle heart that loves with all of itself and has taken Luhan into itself and wrapped him in security.


“Did you have a good Christmas?”


Holiday seasons passing. It had been exactly the same, waking up the next morning to the same smile, the same system, the same vague distancing that has seemed to plague their life since Luhan can remember. It's easier, this time, telling her about Jongin.


“You’re dating another boy?”


“Yes, mother, I am. He’s very nice. We’re happy.”


“Well, I’m glad you can be happy.”


The feeling of Jongin’s fingers lacing with his own draws Luhan’s attention back, keeping him in the moment, with Jongin’s head tucked under his chin and his hands intertwined with his own, warm and comfortable and safe.


Jongin is so safe. Jongin doesn’t push, doesn’t assume and just lets him be. He’s the most comfortable person, only loving. There is so much love in him… Is there ever a point where it stops?


It sends a slight shiver through him, shoulders tensing and Jongin shifts, turning to look at him. “Okay?”


“Fine,” Luhan says but the word feels of soot and crimson as soon as it passes his lips, leaving a track back to him. Jongin doesn’t look convinced, his face darkening in concern as he studies Luhan’s. Fingers that are built for use in hands that work rather than remain for observation brush delicately over his face.


Delicate.


“You can tell me,” Jongin says, his voice quiet and soft, caring to the point that Luhan’s heart pounds in his chest, that his skin feels raw and everything seems to fog, to shake. “Luhan, you can tell me anything.”


They're lying down, stretched out on Luhan’s bed, the quilt that had laid there for years despite his lack of choosing worn with age and scratching at the skin of his hip where his shirt has ridden up. The room isn’t cold and Jongin nestled to him, arms draped over his waist and half clinging, holding onto him and needing him is enough to keep the winter that lingers at the fringe at bay. The lamp on the bed hasn't changed in sixteen years as Luhan’s eyes fix on it, the many times it has been turned on and off by his fingers or another’s and a lump presses to his throat as he thinks of how much this room has seen.


Breathe in.


The press of lips against his temple has his eyes closing, the deep breath held as soft cradling hands come to rest around his face. Holding together, loving in their gentle caress against his skin so fair and immaculate.


“What if you don’t like what you hear?” The words sit in the air waiting for someone to rip them down.


“Are you a child murderer?” The question has a laugh ripping from him unexpectedly, Jongin laughing along with him and it startles him out of his reverie. Jongin is so bright, so beautiful and so young with energy. Luhan looks at him and sees someone who wants to be with him, who takes time away from everything he knows, his friends and his family, to truly be with him.


Downstairs, there is no sound and despite being polite and bowing accordingly and offering small smiles, the reaction had been nothing short of cordial. Shaking hands of the young man who is the lover of her son and yet nothing but bemusement passed over those pretty features.


Luhan isn’t downstairs and Jongin is here with him, curled in this space that Luhan has found sanctuary in for years of his life and curled into at time of darkness, silent whispers and airless gasps in the hours when no one could see. The laughter quiets in his mouth.


“No, I’m not a child murderer,” Luhan tells Jongin as he tugs at his ear absently.


“Then it’s okay,” Jongin says, his arms tightening around Luhan. “If something is bothering you, you can always talk to me. I just might not know what to say.”


“You never really know what to say,” Luhan teases him and Jongin smiles like the sun is shining and only he can truly understand it’s happiness.


“That doesn’t stop me from trying.”


With Jongin, it’s safe, the other there, stable and whenever he needs him, at times listless and when exhausted cranky but he’s there and he showers with affection and adores. Jongin is that thing which loves with his whole heart. Jongin will listen, even if he doesn’t understand and it shakes within Luhan in a seismic tremor, from his core to the surface.


A gentle kiss to the lips as eyes close and he drinks in confidence and power.


Jongin is the exception for everything, the strong and the outstanding. Jongin is the shining ray of raw talent and unheeded ability that works beyond its measure to be the best. He is the cream at the top and he is that highest percentile.


Luhan breathes in deep and opens his mouth as Jongin’s eyes flicker in the dim yellow light of the room.


Luhan has always had high expectations. They have been instilled in him since he was young, the standards of his parents for him rising above all other children he knew. He was better than them, they told him even as he was shoved around for being skinny, for having a pretty face for a boy. High expectations for academics, high expectations for sports, high expectations for everything that just rose higher and higher until Luhan couldn’t see them anymore and his eyes clouded with tears.


"Don't cry," his mother had said, wiping the tears of her son with her own face creased in a frown. Serious and cold and compose. The proper visage of someone who has taken life and put in it's place. "Never let them see you cry. You are strong, stronger than all of them and they envy you. No one else can be you or will ever be you and what you are is the best. So show them that."


To be accepted, to be loved, that was all that mattered. To be loved was the one thing that Luhan always wondered what it was, to feel that warmth spreading through limbs as he imagined it might be when he closed his eyes, when he filled his lungs with air and focused his mind on one thing. The rare moments it was something he felt was within his grasp was when he was young, when a warm kind smile would flash at him from the opposite side of the table from his mother, a darker richer smoother voice telling him that it’s okay to scrape his knees, just don’t let it keep him on the ground.


Get up again, do it better.


His mother has always been the one who views life critically, who sees the world as a practical place and where he had to excel, where they all had to excel, they themselves only in their place from hard work. Her hard work, her parents’ hard work, her husband’s hard work. Luhan could hear them as he sat doing homework for the class two years above his own in the late of evening, arguing and his mother’s voice raising.


But there was always a smile, a soft hand that would brush Luhan’s hair from his face and tell him he had to keep going, that he was doing well when his mother pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed and he stumbled not to fall. There was always the warm strong arms of his father, who Luhan was so easy to fall into and trust and think was the one place he could truly be at peace.


“I hate him,” is out of Luhan’s mouth before he realizes it and Jongin blinks, shifting back looking shocked as Luhan’s stomach twists.


“Why?” Jongin looks confused, so confused as he looks over Luhan and the burn that he never allows to spike through him does, searing as it goes and he resists the urge to clench his hands into painful fists.


“Because he didn’t actually care,” Luhan says and Jongin’s eyes darken.


“He left?”


The family portrait in the hall hangs as an ugly reminder of something that once was and will never be properly again. A family of three rent horribly into two and never the same following. “Something like that.” His throat sticks to the words as he tries to force them up, stomach clenching as he feels the food from being home, heavy and far more than he had been eating at university heavy. “I look like him more than my mother.”


“Your mother is beautiful,” Jongin says, idly as if a passing through as his eyes flicker over Luhan’s face.


“I know.” Twist the knife deeper as his face shines raw.


“You’re more so.”


Luhan pushes at him gently, his hand resting on his chest just over his heart which beats too well and is too big. “Women are beautiful. Men are handsome.”


His father was also handsome, though his face had more definition that Luhan’s does, his shoulders the same softer stretch opposed to the strong look of power and constitution his mother held when her back straightened. It looked weak.


You are not weak, Luhan. You are not like him.


“You’re both,” Jongin tells him, and it’s so sweet and warm that his throat turns raw and his eyes shut. Lips brush over his forehead. “You are.”


He feels sick to be loved like this but it’s everything he wants and everything he hungers and everything he deserves. “Tell me more.”




◦❀◦





Jongin is perfect, the most amazing human that Luhan has ever met. Though shy at first, he and Zitao had nothing but laughter between them when his cousin came to visit, Sehun seeming to have no issue with talking to him. Sehun laughed at all of the jokes Jongin made, face creased into laughter that wrecked his entire handsome demeanor but it made Jongin so happy.


“Don’t laugh like that, you look ugly,” Luhan tells Sehun and the younger boy flushes bright red as Zitao sighs to himself and tugs at Sehun’s sweater, pulling it into proper place from where it’s messed up. Jongin sits beside Luhan, warm and stable and Luhan doesn’t want him elsewhere. His legs look perfect in his jeans, slim and strong and gorgeous, just like him. His fingers lace with Luhan’s and he squeezes to make sure Luhan knows he’s there.


“My face is fabulous,” Sehun mumbles back, as if he doesn’t want Luhan to hear him but not quite enough to be inaudible. His eyes flicker to Jongin and the shift in them has a crawl up Luhan’s chest that sneers ugly. “Everyone says so.”


“No, they don’t,” Zitao says, shoving Sehun in the head. “They say you look like you’re emotionally constipated constantly and they don't understand how you stay handsome on top of such a small emotional range.”


“I’m just amazing like that,” Sehun replies and Luhan’s lip curls at the hubris rolling off the young boy with soft auburn hair who licks his lips too often. Jongin’s hand squeezes around his own.


“I have to get going soon,” Jongin whispers into his hair. It’s been three days and Jongin will be at school when they go back. Luhan wants to keep him, locked under and with him and make sure he never leaves, never goes and never strays. Keep his heart which takes and gives and gives and gives to him while Luhan spins further down to him, breathing shallow.


Love never felt like this before. Love never gripped him with a desperation like this before. Become the best to be the best to deserve this love that is rightfully his.


He is deserving. He is perfect. Jongin is perfect. It’s the answer.


He calls Minseok an hour after Jongin has left, after the room was too cold without a warm presence there for it and when Sehun and Zitao had long since left to do other things, Sehun’s eyes lingering as they stood in the doorway.


“I’m glad you’ve finally deemed me worthy of your time,” Minseok drawls over the phone and Luhan’s mind is still fuzzy, still spinning.


“Get coffee with me,” he says, short and demanding but he needs it.


“I’m with Dongwoo.”


“Please, Minseok?” Luhan’s eyes fix on the bed, the coverlet boring and dull and he wants to not be alone. Everything is different now that he’s feeling raw, the lamp on his bedside table waiting to be turned off and the desk with the notebook that never seems to stop filling closed with a pen waiting atop it. His stomach twists as his mouth presses into a line.


A sigh. “I didn’t know you missed me so much.”


“I always miss you when you’re not around.” Luhan begins to pace, hugging himself with one arm as he moves and a small smile teases over his lips.


“Don't lie, it’s horrible when you do,” Minseok accosts him gently. “Do you want me to come pick you up?”


“I never lie,” Luhan tells him and looks up to meet his own eyes in the mirror.


Minseok’s eyes don’t stray far as they sit across from one another at the local café, Luhan talking over himself and over and over as Minseok watches him, his exaggerated hand gestures and the shake that takes to his fingers. “Stop looking at me like that,” Luhan finally snaps.


Minseok blinks. “Like what?”


“Like you think there’s something wrong,” Luhan says, voice terse and tired of the crease between Minseok’s brows. “There’s nothing wrong. I literally just explained everything that isn’t wrong with me.”


“I never said there was something wrong,” Minseok says and Luhan’s fingers tense around his coffee cup. The fog is still there, the narrowing of his world into a central scope. He needs to calm down, to focus, the sea of emotions that had begun to break out from spilling words into the air now just getting deeper since Jongin had listened to him and gently run his fingers along his face.


Calling him beautiful. Telling him he was perfect as he is. Loving him.


Luhan’s breath is short as Minseok sits stunned before him. The coffee steam curls in the air between them.


“Are things with Jongin okay?”


“Why wouldn’t they be okay?” Luhan asks, noting the frown on Minseok’s lips as he says the other man’s name. “Look, if you have a problem with my boyfriend, you can-“


“I never said I had a problem with him,” Minseok looks shocked, stunned as he sits up, his eyes widening. “I just, I wanted to make sure you were okay. We haven’t talked or hung out as much since you started dating him. Not even like when you were with Yifan.” He pauses, a light bite to his lip and a brief chew as he appears to hesitate on the last sentence. “I just miss having my friend around, is all.” The tension that had briefly begun to crawl down Luhan’s skin lessens. “I just want you to take care of yourself.”


Air passing easily in and out of his lungs, filling him and leaving him alive and at peace, Luhan lets himself smile. The concern in Minseok’s eyes fades but a portion remains as he watches his friend. “I will,” he says. “I’m very good at taking care of myself.” His smile widens. “The best, actually.”




◦❀◦





You look good.


The phrase, repeated with various smiles and appreciative looks, begin to meet him everywhere. In the grocery store, when he drops by Zitao’s and startles both his cousin and Sehun in the middle of video games. When he sees Yixing and one of his music friends. When Minseok leaves him at the café. When his mother sees him and when the neighbors pass, the other strangers at the gym and the stores clerk checks him out as he’s picking up toothpaste.


You look really good.


Handsome face fixed with a better haircut, shorter and a more masculine feel, his fingers brushing through it, skin pale as the snow outside and kept in perfect condition as he checks it in the bathroom mirror. Luhan can feel the strength building in his arms, in his legs, in his abdomen, his lungs taking in more air from long hours of exertion on the treadmills as swear plasters his skin and sticks the air in his throat.


It’s warmer in the room with his skin washed clean and without the extra drip against the back of his neck and Luhan finds himself examining. Running his fingers and looking down, watching their journey over his skin. The previous night was spent reading, going through books as his eyes refused to stay closed and the light of the moon pulled him from slumber, thoughts spinning over onto each other and what it was to be beautiful and handsome together, to feel that insurmountable worth spread so vast inside that there’s no room for air.


You look really amazingly good. So handsome. So beautiful. Everything.


The light from the lamp beside the bed gleams in the three o’ clock time scale and hits against the planes of a body that seems too loved and cared for to properly be seen at this time. As his fingers glide over the skin, his mind skips into a realm of thought and perception. What is it like for others to look at him like this, to see him in the showers of the gym, to look up and see him standing before them in the market?


What do they see? Is their breath taken away?


Does Minseok look at his best friend and wistfully wonder how Luhan’s face catches the light? Does Yixing wonder what it would be like to run his hands down his sides one more time and press their lips together just so and feel the air stop in his lungs?


Does Jongin feel his heart stop as he looks upon Luhan, his hands itching to reach and caress the landscape of his body and sending a shudder through him that cannot be matched by any other? Does he think about Luhan, flushed and the perfect visage of beautiful and handsome before him as he lies awake at night, the image brought before his eyes in times of need?


What’s it like to be them?


The mirror is half in shadow across the room but it still looks back at him. Is this what they see? Luhan’s breath catches as he sees himself the moonlight from the window steaming in on one side and the light from the lamp hitting the other, perfectly painting over his half naked body in a balance that has him captivated.


Hours of work, of sculpting of sweating away what he never needed and what he needed to let go of to continue to become better. House of shoving down that slightly sick feeling as the memories of the past and hands that were weak and perceived to care touched his skin and lips that he inherited smiled too sweet. Hours and days and pounding repeated words and dialogue and concepts, truths of what he knows and believes into the supple tissue of his mind and leaving him with this.


Breath catches as he follows the movement of his hands down, thinking for a brief moment of it being another, a lover, Jongin before his thoughts stop. His hand pauses and he pulls back. Eyes follow the lines of his body, his and he breathes in deep to let himself feel, to think to see what it is they see.


such a beautiful, wonderful, perfect boy


His breath sucks in faster as his hand slides over his body, watching himself and the flow of his blood throbs beneath his skin, the muscles twitching to attention and he can see it.


so amazing


The look of the eyes in the mirror opposite him darkens as the sound of a pulse beats loudly in his ears, his mind hazing progressively as his fingers feel and his skin prickles to this touch that has him enraptured unlike before.


In between the panting breaths that begin to turn ragged as eyes follow with an intense insatiable hunger brewing within them, he starts to feel the vague tendrils of understanding wrap around him and tug him down into the soft allure.


So this is what they see.


Luhan understands.




◦❀◦





Jongin stays. It’s been weeks, almost a full month since the monotonous drag of school once more set back in and Luhan’s schedule began to slam into him with the force of the autumn tides, unrelenting. Tired with the extra pressures of a relationship that speeds fast and holds strong, Luhan sways between the realms of two weeks ahead and one week to deadlines crawling up his spine with Jongin’s fingertips not far behind.


“Stop it,” snaps over and over and yet Jongin stays. “Go away,” and Jongin does but the messages appear in his phone and Luhan looks at the snow destroyed by footprints and dirt and sneers at the impurity of it all. “Stay,” Luhan says, forehead tilted to Jongin’s chest and watching the tears held barely at bay in the other’s eyes and he does.


Jongin stays and Luhan wonders why.


No, he doesn’t.


“I love you,” whispers past those perfectly soft supple lips and Luhan claims them, the feeling of them still his and only his and it terrifies him how much he’s beginning to need him there.


don’t let them see how weak you are. don’t let them know what can hurt you because you are stronger than anything that they can hit you with; you need to be stronger than them. never let them think you are anything less than you are


Pound through books, pound through schedules and advanced student meetings and appointments with professors and a woman who wears glasses and nylons that accent her calves and pound through the door to the rush of his pounding heart. His fingers press into skin and he waits for the soft word “stop” and nearly yells out in anger when he hears it.


“What?” he demands, pulling back and looking down at the flushed skin and cheeks so pretty before him. “What’s so wrong that you don’t want me?”


Panic laces over that face, eyes wide and form seizing up as Luhan steps back, anger and frustration running through him, shaking off Jongin’s hands as they reach for him.


“Please, no,” Jongin says, voice cracking as he tries to follow and Luhan steps back further. He doesn’t need this. “Luhan, I never said I didn’t want you.”


“Then why wont you give me what I want?” touch me, please me, do everything for me, give it all up for me because I am the best thing you will ever have. tell me this, remind me of this, make me worth it. The eyes that would never open staring up at him from the silk padded lining and the overwhelming smell of flowers that seemed to drown him as water clogged in his throat and pressed down his face. “Jongin, I don’t know what I’m doing wrong that you don’t care, that you don’t-”


“I don’t know what you want!” Jongin finally snaps. Desperation, drawn out and frantic as he flares in anger and the next second steps back, fuming and the radiation from him is grime along walls. “Luhan, I don’t know what you want me to do.”


They fall out, they fall in, Luhan buries himself in academics and student government and drags Minseok out for hours at a time kicking soccer balls across the pitch as sharp eyes watch him and he doesn’t acknowledge it. Jongin comes to his door late at night and Luhan is shirtless, hair tousled and jeans low on his hips and it starts all over again, waiting and wanting and it’s never enough.


Jongin was perfect, the flawless creature of beauty that shone from a center stage and Luhan was left breathless and in awe. Jongin was everything, loving and perfect and talking him to himself and loving him unconditionally and Luhan choked on the bitter taste of coffee in his mouth from their dates in cafes with hands held out of sight.


Jongin jumps at noises that are harmless nothings, shrieks at horror movies and has a childish obsession with anime and manga memorabilia that will do nothing for him in later life. Jongin is sweet but he’s not strong, clinging and crying when he’s upset.


Jongin cries and Luhan walks away.


The sign of weakness is always in the outward displays of emotion, the flashes of high voices in anger that scream through walls and turn frowns deeper. The terrified shrieks of people who startle in the night and the tracks of human carved emotion down the face as raw misery spills from lips and sours the air.


Jongin cries and Luhan feels sick as he watches him. “Don’t leave.” A plague to settling when everything had been exactly as it was and then peaked. It broke, something broke and the only answer can be Jongin. Luhan’s heart beats fast as he stands and searches frantically for anything that may be wrong, the imperfections in his skin and the pleasing form depicted back to him.


But there is nothing wrong.


When it strikes past midnight on the analogue clock on the desk beside Luhan’s bed, the door knocks and he opens it. “I’m sorry,” are the hasty words from lips. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”


The burning cracking feeling that builds in him pressures up into his throat and tastes of violent copper. Luhan can breathe, the smell of familiarity filling him as Jongin steps in and he just wants to know. “Do you love me?”


All that is needed is love to survive the world and the squeeze around his heart to almost stop it when Jongin wraps his arms around him has him shaking. Luhan needs to be loved, he wants to be loved and he deserves it. Every creature deserves to be loved and cared for and his heart stops the erratic pounding as Jongin whispers to him the sweet creature that he is and the ways in which he is everything to him. Jongin speaks into his skin and worships him and Luhan can breathe and let himself go from the iron grip he’s wound around himself.


As warm palms come to cup his face, carefully and gentle cradling him as if he is more precious than the grail, Luhan feels the drop and the fall, his heart too big and too small for him to take as Jongin kisses him. Kisses him as if he never can do anything else in this moment. “Don’t ever leave me,” he whispers against lips lush and soft and sweet against his own and Jongin cries for him as everything hits the wall.




◦❀◦




“I won’t.” Cracked red lines appear over the photograph as his vision bleeds into white.




◦❀◦





“Everything is wrong.”


Barely inside the room it explodes out of him without his control. He can’t think, can’t breathe and stepping into the too calm interior of the room has his teeth, already on edge, grinding painfully. Eyes flash with worry behind glasses. “Luhan,” she says and fuck everything, of course it’s him. “What’s wrong?”


“Everything.” Raw screams at the back of his throat from the emotions he can’t let past the bars that’s kept them in control for so long, the ugly rearing of heads that should never have been let loose. Shut it down, close it off, maintain, maintain, maintain but it slips through his fingers in the wild screaming that shuts out his mind. “Everything is wrong and I Don’t know why but I can’t Stop it and I’m-“


He can’t breathe, the world swimming as the couch rushes up to him as his focus blurs and someone lets out a startled yell before his eyes close.


He opens his eyes splayed on the couch as he usually is, looking at the walls around him and, for the first time, the lack of anything of interest is the most welcome thing to him as he breathes and tries to calm his racing heart from the trauma it slams against his ribcage. He breathes in and out and focuses, centering himself on the pass of air in and out of him and finally looks up.


The lines of concern are so deep. “Luhan, I need you to tell me what just happened to you.”


When Luhan was seven years old, he was diagnosed by a child psychologist of suffering from severe anxiety attacks. The cure was to put him on medication that would calm him down and keep his hyperactivity and intense moments of internal and external panic at bay. This significantly relieved the stress from his mother of the burden of taking care of a panicked child on a daily basis who worked himself into terrors. He stopped screaming in his sleep and his mother could finally rest.


In his first year of high school, when Luhan had passed puberty and begun to fight against the ridicule that he had initially received from his peers, the strain of the social pecking order lessened as the student body instead turned to their examinations, the last dose of anxiety medication was given back to his mother. “I don’t need them,” Luhan had told her and never looked back.


Dependency was a weakness on something out of your own control. Luhan was raised to look after himself, to take care of himself by his mother who had enough to do, who saw the world for the cruel barren place it is. Be strong.


Luhan is steel.


“I’m having difficulties with Jongin,” is where Luhan begins as his mind slots everything back into place. The throb of emotions under his skin is nearly agonizing, the slicing pain from his heart real. The clipboard isn’t used today, the pen abandoned beside it and Luhan didn’t style his hair before coming over for the eight thirty appointment. “I don’t know what’s wrong but it’s all wrong and I need to have him fix it.”


“Him?”


“I don't know what’s wrong.” Those eyes darken and the concern deepens as Luhan’s throat goes dry and his fingers twist together. “There’s something wrong with us. With how we are.”


“Can you explain it to me?”


He doesn’t understand how important I am. I have to be important enough for him to love me. “I think-“ What if he hurts me he’s going to leave me he can’t do that. “I don't know if I can trust him.” No one leaves me. I let him in. “I told him things, and we shared things together.”


“What kinds of things, Luhan?”


“He knows about me.”


Luhan doesn’t like to delve into the past. It’s the past for a reason with secrets and skeletons in the closet and he doesn’t like his past. It’s not pretty, it’s not beautiful and it’s everything that he’s climbed out of to become the person that he is today. He’s grown from that time, he’s developed from that time. A lotus blossom in a pond of muck as he stands out among the filth and decay.


“I know about you,” she says and Luhan’s mouth forms a line of dislike.


Not like this.


Jongin knows. Jongin is going to leave him. He’s seen him and even if Luhan loves him and Jongin possibly returns the affections, no one loves him the way he needs.


In the end, they’re all going to leave him.


The wind seems to suck into nothing, the air vanishing from the room as everything slows to nothing, sharpening to focus on the one thing that holds any semblance of significance. Rationalize, conceptualize, work through the numbers and organize the data until the only possible solution is a to be to the end of everything. Everything into perspective is the only way to filter. “Yes, you do,” Luhan says, voice carrying through a box as his mind turns at all of the speeds possible.


It is impossible to be left if he is already gone. Trust cannot be broken if it’s already abandoned.


“Luhan?”


“When you have a crack in your mug, what do you do with it?”


The way she looks at him suggests that she doesn’t understand. Of course not, how could she understand? Luhan wants to sneer, the cement that blocks over his chest as he feels acid and mercury replace the soft consistency of blood. “I don't understand, Luhan.”


The laugh gurgles at the back of his throat and fogs his mind in euphoric peace. “You throw it out.”


Her pretty eyes widen behind her glasses and Luhan sits back to fall into everything he knows to be fact.


“Luhan, is everything okay?”


“I’m perfect.”




○❂○





1043104310431043.

Love is a toxin that is necessary for human survival. Just like those who suck cigarette smoke into their bodies in a daily ritual of long term suicide, love is a toxin like the chemicals found in cancer sticks that our bodies and minds have become so dependent upon we can’t function without it.


A horrific crippling addiction which weakens us as individual beings to love and prosper without the dependency on another to ensure happiness. A mother demanding the love of her child and screaming indignation when it is refused.


One lover kills another lover for being with someone else in a moment of doubt.


It’s a drug, a horrific sadistic and masochistic instrument by the mind and emotions used to cripple and manipulate and the most terrifying force in the entire world that we know.


Love and hate, the two largest opposites anyone can think of, juxtaposed but their impact is the same. If someone were to say ‘I hate you’ the reaction is just as violent and intense as it is if someone were to whisper close and say ‘I love you’.


Fuck love. It fogs the mind and addles the brain and destroys all proper function because it is the most beautiful and sorrowful thing ever to exist and I need it.


I NeEd it.


Like the air needs oxygen and a book words, it is something we all need and look for but what kind of love is there that we can properly get and feel fulfilled with. Who could love such wretched creatures as ourselves, thrown to the earth to await our death and fucking everything we touch to destruction?


Who could love? I want to love I can love it is easy to love love is simple when you do it but impossible to find because no one understands who could understand it’s an abstract concept and it is always- you will never know love mine is the kingdom and I keep it MINE.





◦❀◦





“Tell me you love me.”


“I love you.”


“You’re lying.”


“Luhan, please. I don’t want to do this.”


“You’re lying.”


“I’m not lying. I love you. I really do. Please.”


He can’t hear over the screaming in his ears that sounds of his own voice and a thousand others at a different pitch all echoing around the space between his ears. A great chasm of sound opening it’s jaw to swallow him whole as he pushes back and never looks down.


“Okay.” Breathe in and everything stops.




○❂○





79.

I am safe. I am at peace. I am okay. I am happy with who I am. I am alive. I am comfortable with myself and everything that I am. I am love. I am acceptance. I am happiness and sadness and understand and the world around me. I am strong.


I am Luhan.


I am the best that I can be.


I am. Perfect.





◦❀◦





“I don’t understand.”


Words that cripple and combust and loop over on themselves and Luhan stood with his feet solid on the ground and watched, blocking down whatever might try to rise up as he kept his voice level and spoke to the point. “I’m breaking up with you.”


He should have expected it, after all the lashing out, the fights, the times he screamed at Jongin to get out when it all got to be too much and he couldn’t speak or breathe. When he felt like he was being swallowed and couldn’t let Jongin any closer because he was already there. It’s self precautionary, the distancing but now, with a face streaked in tears and confusion and the realization that this isn’t going to be where they come back, Jongin crumples before his hand like sandcastles on the beach.


“Why?”


The angered reaction never came, the fury and the attack. It never came. Letting go is hard but not being fought for…


The blood stains on a carpet that paint a whole room red, motionless body as the window stays open and a light breeze wafts in, gently agitating the curtains to mimic the only life once present in the room. A soundless scream of a child as a mother stood in horror and the first break began.


Luhan let’s his feet travel him to class, where he sits and takes notes and listens to the professor and Soojung glances at him a few times, a vague curiosity about her but Luhan ignores it. He has things to concentrate on aside from her gossiping habits. His phone vibrates against his leg and he ignores it. Soojung’s phone vibrates and he ignores it, even as she steps up and leaves class quickly, what appears to be worry blossoming over her pretty face.


I don’t understand.


Luhan stands at the mirror in the bathroom, the tiled walls and floor rising up and the only thing of any significance is the mirror, reflecting the room back in perfect mimicry. He runs his fingers through his hair, checking and setting and resetting. He looks good today.


He looks good everyday when he knows how to hide the small things he knows about himself and keep out of sight. The scar at his lip and the way his shoulders will never be just broad enough. The way his teeth are slightly crooked and his hands aren’t pretty. The way one of his eyes doesn’t exactly match the other and his dark hair is always in need of a touch up at the roots.


Don't let the flaws be visible, he reminds himself as he feels his pulse jump under his skin, closing his eyes and leaning over one of the sinks. There is no one on this floor at the moment; no one of importance.


The ache in his chest is from lack of sleep and the stress of finals, the shake in his hands that started a week ago a symptom of general stress. The rushing of blood under his skin and the shortness of breath are all just normal.


There is nothing wrong with him.


He opens his eyes, meeting his own eyes in the mirror, mouth set in a line and his face serious. A perfect face, the envy of those who look upon him. Luhan, the handsome who holds a strange beauty about him which no one can classify or compare to. Luhan who excels in every aspect working and making it look effortless, his accomplishments far beyond what others might expect.


Luhan, who has been on the dean’s list since he entered university, unlike Yixing, who made it once and that was enough. Unlike Minseok, who struggles to stay on amid his flashing extra-curriculars. Luhan, who managed the time to physically perfect himself in the span of months to the flawlessness of Jongin the prodigal dancer and Yixing, who has the awe of the performance department with his years of training.


Luhan did all of that, faster, better, and with other things simultaneously.


The vibration of his phone startles him out of his thoughts, reaching down to check the number and his eyebrows rise at the name flashing on the screen.


“I can’t believe you broke up with Jongin,” Yixing’s voice rushes over the line and Luhan meets his eyes again in the mirror. Jongin the young dancer who just entered university this year. Jongin the young man who loves blindly and is at heart full of childish dreams despite his perfect physique.


“How did you find out?” Luhan asks, stepping back from the sink but his eyes linger on the brush of his hair over his face.


“Not from you, that’s for sure.” It’s harsher than he’s sure Yixing intends. Yixing is rarely harsh with him. It’s just not how they work. “Why didn’t you tell me? I’m your best friend and you couldn’t even bring up something like this?”


Something vile spikes in Luhan’s veins. “Did Jongin tell you?” Of all people, Jongin. Jongin going to Yixing, his dancing peer, to tell Yixing that Luhan had broken up with him. Talking to Yixing over-


They’re not dating anymore and Luhan has to close his eyes to calm down from the spike and hot anger that rushed through him. He doesn’t need him to be whole. Dry throat and sticky to swallow.


“No,” Yixing sighs loudly through the phone, static scratching against his ears. “Soojung just told me. Jongin is with her and Taemin.”


“Good,” Luhan says, waiting for the feeling of relief, of regret of something to hit him at the news. It doesn't. He made the right decision. “He should be with him. He didn’t take it very well.”


“Jesus, Luhan, you broke up with him out of no where, how did you think he was going to take it?” Yixing sounds upset. Extremely upset. Luhan frowns. “He was in love with you, is probably still and you just-“ Yixing sounds annoyed, upset with Luhan as his voice rises and Luhan’s pulse skips so fast he almost can’t feel it until it slams into him. “What the hell made you break up with him? You guys were so happy.”


The metal bands around his chest constrict, the disappointment in Yixing’s voice, the disdain, the disapproval and the aghast tone he uses, as if Luhan is breaking up with him all over again and not some other boy from his dance company. It pushes the air from him, leaving him to nearly drop his phone to shatter it on the tiled bathroom floor as he stumbles to the sink again, catching it and trying to breathe over the roar in his ears and the shake in his vision.


Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.


He gasps, trying to calm down the gripping panic in him as his muscles and body seizes up, strong and crippling as it locks down. He runs through number systems, patterns and codes and anything sequential to try to keep it down, to keep the churn under his skin as the pressure in his skull threatens to shatter it into oblivion.


Mouth open and letting out a breath, he holds. Strength is in letting others never see when you’re falling apart. Strength is power and always looking in control. Remind yourself that you are the best and nothing can touch you.


Invaluable and he does not settle. It only ends in agony.


“It wasn’t,” Luhan finally manages to say, turning on the faucet and letting the water run gently over his fingers, cooling the skin. “We weren’t perfect.”


“No couple is perfect.” Stab into the skin, bleed through the wounds. Lifeless eyes closed and never opening. Luhan feels sick. “No one has a relationship without issues. I just didn’t realize you and Jongin were so bad.” Yixing sighs again and water runs over the back of Luhan’s now fisted hand. “He never mentioned anything.”


“You’re my best friend,” Luhan says, focusing on the cool water over his skin. “He probably thought if he talked shit about me to you, he’d get punched.”


“I don't think he’d ever speak badly of you,” is soft and gentle and Luhan doesn’t want to talk about this. It’s not Yixing’s business. “He really-“


“Why are you so invested in this?” Luhan snaps, losing his patience as he doesn’t want to think about the relationship of nearly four months that he’s just ended. “Why do you care so much that Jongin and I broke up?” The anger helps him focus, helps his mind clear and stay on one thing.


“Because I care,” Yixing replies and it sounds shocked, hurt. “Because I care about you, Luhan, and you haven’t talked to me at all about this. You didn’t even tell me you and Jongin were dating! You didn’t-“


“Why does it matter so much to you who I date or not?” Luhan sneers, the expression ugly reflected back at him and he steps back quickly. “Are you jealous it’s not you I’m fucking?”


There is silence. It rings through the air as the phone at Luhan’s ear is dead quiet. “Fuck you,” is the low harsh whisper and the line falls dead. Still with breaths hastened, Luhan turns, leaning against the cool tile of the bathroom and letting his head fall back. He lets his phone drop to his side, face creased as he knows that was a step over a line.


They don’t talk about it, the whole mess being what was determined a false call in their friendship. They don’t talk about it even if it happened and Yixing still watches Luhan with a yearning about him. They don't talk about how they’re closer than other friends are and how Luhan never brings it up because a small part of him knows, deep down, Yixing still loves him.


Crossing a line and Luhan feels guilt, the worst feeling possible, writhe inside him. He needs to apologize but not now. Now he is tired, he is burdened with the weight of ending a relationship that took up so much of his life and he needs to let himself be.


It never would have lasted, himself and Jongin. After a while it would have drawn to boredom and one of them would have left the other hollow and shattered. Jongin and all of his physical perfection would have faded, his beautiful innocence faded as it was ripped from him by life and it’s typical manner of disillusionment. Luhan can do better than a love struck boy who dances because he loves it and gives and gives because he has no other manner of showing how much he cares.


Luhan can do better than so many of the people he’s been settling with, the people who being as what are appealing prospects and end in disappointment. He can do better, he should do better.


Luhan was raised with high expectations and to strive to become the best, always fighting against odds and his peers to become everything that they would admire and look up to. Luhan was raised to become the best and then do better. Luhan is the best, is that which other look upon with awe and respect.


It seems only fitting that the best deserve the best in return and Luhan simply needs to find it.


Pulling the weeds from the garden helps it grown into the most beautiful display in the sunlight.




◦❀◦





Minseok’s mouth is funny when it forms a line. It glares at him just as much as Minseok does as he stands over him in the library and waits for him to look up from his books. “Hi.”


“Apologize to him,” Minseok immediately demands, arms folded over his chest as he stares down Luhan and looks entirely too serious for a Tuesday morning.


“I’m not apologizing to Jongin for breaking up with him,” Luhan answers easily, sitting back with a light sigh and fixing his friend with a look. It’s easier now that a day has passed and given time to settle. His phone has less messages on it today but Minseok is here in person glaring at him and his mouth looks so thin it could be in danger of disappearing. “I don’t regret breaking up with him so why should I apologize?”


“I’m not talking about Jongin,” Minseok growls, leaning over the library desk and into his face. “I’m talking about how Yixing sat and played sad or angry guitars chords in my room for three hours yesterday and refused to say anything aside from ‘fuckers gonna fuck’ and then cried when I tried to touch him.” Minseok looks livid and Luhan’s gut writhes again. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”


A low blow. An uncalled for blow. “I’ll talk to him today,” he says, trying to think of how to approach his best friend without setting him off. There are times when even Yixing, the most calm of all of them, cannot be reasoned with.


“You better,” Minseok says, his voice threatening.


“So protective,” Luhan mumbles under his breath as Minseok steps back and the other man freezes.


“Don’t even fucking start with me,” Minseok says but it sounds more like a tired throw out than a reprimanding smack.




◦❀◦





The eyes that watch him are deeper now, lined with a wariness that hadn’t been there before, a stronger note of concern that seems out of place after all the trained indifference and lack of connection. The barriers are beginning to fall down, the glass and walls that she’s constructed between them beginning to look more transparent as her worry reveals.


Luhan strings lines of swears across the inside of his mind in a weaving tapestry of profanity and grit.


“It’s good to see you today,” she says and Luhan sits up, posture straightening as he makes himself proper on the couch, almost the exact same as he had the first session when he had walked in and distrusted instantly.


“I saw you last week,” Luhan says, his mind running through the codes and systems and plans and his schedule on repeat. It all flattens down to zero and there is no blip on the mind-scale.


“I know,” she says and her pen taps in her fingers, barely touching the clipboard for notes and assessment resting atop her knees. She’s wearing pants today. “I want to talk about that.”


“Why?” Last week was a maelstrom; a chaotic mess of flying emotions and crying that he never wanted to see and shouting that left throats raw and hearts bleeding. Last week was the ending of something worn out and used up and the mending of a break that is already broken and yet still remains holding fast. Why shouldn’t it? “Last week was-“ disgusting “-not the best, but it’s in the past now.”


“How are you doing with the break up?”


It’s the most confusing question Luhan ever has to answer. “I broke up with him.”


“I know, I am asking how you are dealing with it.” Jongin hasn’t talked to him and Yixing has become quieter but returned to his side just as always even if he doesn’t reach out to touch him as easily, hand faltering. Luhan watches him every time. “All breakups are hard when you go through them and I know your relationship meant a lot, even if it didn’t last.”


“It was an experience,” Luhan says.


“Tell me about it,” she says, leaning forward just a bit in her chair. She is paying attention, she is waiting for him to break and flood everything to her. She is waiting for him.


“You already know about it,” Luhan says, his hands resting palm down over the tops of his thighs as he sits with his back straight and his shoulders broad. Strong and stable and himself, confidence that laces over the follicles of hair brushing over his skin and knit him together.


“I know that you broke up with him,” she says and the light glints off the lenses in her glasses. Blinding. “I know that you were having problems with each other, just like all relationships have problems.” Luhan’s skin bristles at the comment. “I know that you’re scared to trust me, and I think you were scared to trust him.” Stones fill in the space between bones and solidify that which shall never be broken as her eyes begin to slip past that perfectly composed façade.


“That’s not why I broke up with him,” Luhan says, wanting to clear his throat but knowing the sound might show a sign that this is affecting him. When it isn't. Luhan broke up with Jongin because Jongin wasn’t enough, wasn’t there for him and didn’t love him like he should be loved. He wasn’t perfect and he fucked up and Luhan had to do it.


“But you very much liked being with him,” she says and Luhan’s fingers tense against the fabric of his jeans. “I remember you once telling me you loved him.”


“I was wrong.” There is no hesitation in his answer this time. “I was wrong and I realize that and that’s why I left. I left him because I need to be in a relationship where someone loves me. Where they can see how wonderful I am, where they know that I am the most important thing in their life.”


Shock spans over her face, as if Luhan’s sudden admission is entirely unexpected. Luhan isn’t a weak person, has done his best to never disillusion others of thinking so and part of the hatred that spawned between himself and Jongin was because of invalidated accusations.


Let me help you is the one thing he never needs to hear when he never needs anyone’s help but his own.


“And Jongin didn’t love you like this?”


“No.” Bitter taste at the back of his mouth as he stares hard into her eyes, the tang against his tongue stronger than the one from when he sits with a cup of black before him and Minseok watching him from across the table. “He didn’t.”


“I’m glad you don’t see this as something wrong with yourself.”


Roar of sound and a pressure against his body as the words sink into him with fangs of regret. “What the hell would be wrong with me?” Hours and years of work, time spent when he watched others waste their lives amid play and laughing before turning malicious eyes upon himself and sneering. Sweat that shines and a deep breath in that holds as he looks over himself and smiles in satisfaction. “There isn’t anything wrong with me. I’m excellent. I love myself.”


It’s like she’s getting nothing but shock and curves from him today as her pen quivers over her notes which are barely darkened by the steady draw of ink. “You do?”


“Why shouldn't I?” It comes out harsher than he intends but never will he take it back. Never will he swallow those words down.


It’s the first session where he takes something home, physical paper in his hand and a soft hand at his shoulder that lingers there to impart concern and care unto him but just irritates at the touch. Luhan is calm as he reads over the methods of self focus and calm, the mantras of healing words and the type-print phrases that are all a variation on ’I am enough.


The sound deep inside where the physical world of his body fades away into the dark expanse that is the human mind and a vaulting expanse that is more vast than the night sky. There, they paint in neon and white, and a ring of clarity begins to hum gently along the very fabric of his consciousness.




◦❀◦ Part II ◦❀◦
drainbamage954: (sailing)
Part III~


~Part IV~ )Part IV



◦❀◦






“Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?” - Ian Wallace





◦❀◦





It is so loud in the restaurant on Friday night that Luhan can barely hear himself laugh over the commotion, instead letting it swallow up within the gaiety that surrounds him, his own created happiness for others simply basking in him. It is a tight knit group, consisting mostly of those he knows best from the office and some of their companions, gathered together amid food and drink and good company and his own success shining upon them and bringing merriment to all.


Out of the goodness of his heart, Luhan had even asked along the other intern, Junhong, to participate in the celebration of his success, his term ending to a close as well though perhaps with less fortuitous results that Luhan. He will allow him a moment of enjoyment though, generous and kind as he is, to let the other boy see some form of happiness before he returns to his mundane existence outside of Luhan’s scope.


It is crowded for the evening, people cramming into the restaurant all together in their own worlds of connection and enjoyment and he lets his eyes drift among them. The individuals getting slowly wasted at the bar, caring not for the world and it’s realities, instead choosing to get lost in their own with the assistance of blood toxins. The table itself is nothing but amusement, Kyuhyun and Minho heading the party with jokes and laughter, Kibum assisting with his own commentary and snarking remarks as Heechul presides and lashes out with his one line statements that have roars of laughter pealing forth. It is fun, a fantastic arrangement of people and all removed from the constricts of a social and professional hierarchy based on Luhan’s affluence.


They are all there for him, all brought together from his interception and his influence. They are all there for his purpose and his presence, chatting and laughing and contributing, cooperating and laughing and finding joy in his smiles and his commentary.


A fantastic job. An amazing addition. Please don’t leave us we need you.


so loved purrs against his mind, slipping between the cells and seeping into his being. you are so loved, Luhan. so cherished and wanted. do you see your worth? do you see what you mean? let it go and just become that which you are supposed to be. why do you settle for less when you can have the best? give into it, Luhan. give in and let yourself indulge in what is rightfully yours.


Let out a shuddering breath, the glass of the bottle in his hands, amber liquid blurring inside and fuzzing the edges of consciousness, he breathes in sunfire and resonance. Don’t let them make him feel weak? He hasn’t. Prove to them you are the best? He has.


“Don’t leave man,” Minho pleads beside him, leaning in with an arm around his shoulder. “It’s not going to be the same without you there.”


“You have me for one more week,” Luhan reminds him with a pat to the face that could be condescending if it were anyone but him. “Cherish it.”


“Such a cocky shit,” Minho laughs in his affection and Luhan joins him, ignoring the vibration against his thigh and indulging in the here and now instead of menial pests. “Who else would put up with you except us? We should get awards for our tolerance.”


“Hardly,” Luhan laughs into his face and Minho leans back to try to switch his drink with a resilient Kibum as Kyuhyun watches with clear eyes. “I’m going to miss it though.”


“All the more reason for you to come back then,” Kyuhyun adds in and smiles over the tabletop to him, reassuring and firm, opened eyes seeing him and approving. “Don’t forget what you’ve learned here, Luhan.”


The phone buzzes against his thigh and he pushes down the ire at being interrupted with such frequency the evening of his celebration. “I won’t,” he assures and nods solemnly at the older man over the table. It is never a lie.


Luhan never forgets.


Yoona goes home first, excusing herself and Luhan uses the time in which the other bid her farewell, fussing over her finding a cab safely, to slip to the bathroom, slipping his phone from his pocket to check over the cause of his interruption. He scowls.


The line picks up after one ring. “What is it?” he snaps, patience run thin between the nettling plague that has accosted him for the night in the form of another unable to leave him be for social engagement. “I’m busy.”


“Oh, is that why you’ve been ignoring me all day?” snaps back at him, just as harsh and crackling over the phone line in fire. “Is that why I’ve been sitting here waiting for you and calling to see where the hell you were because you couldn’t see the worth in calling me to tell me you were going to blow me off?”


“I have things to do,” Luhan answers, not really in the mood to argue why he had other things on his mind than the petty need of his boyfriend. “I’ve got other people in my life besides you.”


“Me?!” yells through the line. “Luhan, we made these plans weeks ago!”


“Something came up.” He doesn't want to deal with this. Minseok is being emotional and overreacting from a simple mistake and his own distraction by important factors and realities which he couldn’t avoid. Luhan has been treated well at his internship, it is only reasonable that he treat them back with the same effort and care upon the completion of his time there.


It is good business. It is good networking and social building, the steps in the door to climb up and stand above everyone else as they see and respect and revere him.


“And you couldn’t answer your fucking phone to tell me?” Minseok is angry, his voice pitching and it makes Luhan frown in aggravation because he’s being so dramatic about a simple affair. Luhan has to prioritize things, and occasionally that means his relationship must be compromised for the sake of other things. “What if you were in the fucking hospital? How would I know if something had happened to you if you didn’t call? I almost called the cops, Luhan. You haven’t been answering all day, I had no idea where you were.”


“That the stupidest thing I’ve heard from you,” Luhan half laughs, the absurdity of Minseok calling the authorities just because he didn’t answer his phone laughable. No one does that unless there is great reason to.


“Well, how else was I supposed to know if you hadn’t died in a ditch somewhere,” Minseok bites back, the anger dripping even over the phone, oozing through the receiver. “Because of course it’s not at all practical just to let me know you had something better to do than spend time with me. When I drop everything to be with you when you need me, I clearly shouldn’t expect the same from you.”


“Minseok, you’re being irrational.” why do you tolerate this? are you listening to him?


I’m being irrational,” Minseok scoffs over the line. “Yes, Luhan. You’re perfectly reasonable to ignore and fuck off and never contact me over dinner plans for our fucking anniversary to go dick off with your co-workers or whoever it is you’re with. Your new fuckbuddy for all I fucking am aware of, and I’m the one who is irrationally reacting to this. I’m sorry for even expecting better of this from someone who can’t even take care of himself.”


“The fuck did you just say?” Luhan’s voice is as cold as his nerves, freezing over with ice and venom as fury laces over flesh and bone and burns so hot it’s demonic and fire and bane against his very essence. “Minseok, what the fuck did you just say to me?”


“You know what,” Minseok is scathing, his tone hard and cold and disconnect and Luhan’s temper boils, his grip crackling on the case around his phone, pressuring it into potential destruction. “Fuck it. Fuck this. Fuck all of this shit.”


“Minseok, where are you?” Luhan’s breaths are too short in his chest, hastened by anger and his tone is so low and on the verge of shattering that his vision scatters to black around the edges. “Minseok, where the fuck are you?”


“Do you even fucking care anymore?” Minseok is angry. Luhan is furious. There is no excuse for his. “Did you ever fucking care?”


“I’m coming home,” Luhan tells him, voice hard. “I’m coming home now, and if you’re not there, I will find you. I will find you, Minseok. We aren’t ending this conversation. This isn’t over.”


“It’s isn’t?” laughs back, derisive and hateful. “Oh really, right. I forgot, nothing is fucking over unless you say so. Fuck that.”


The line goes dead abruptly and it takes all of his resolve for Luhan not to hurl the device in fury away from him, destroying it and destroying everything that his eyes see as he burns to take and crush between his hands and make all that stands in his path laid waste. Don't touch him, he will end you.


His eyes in the reflection of the mirror are hot, burning gaze of anger and expression darkened to terrorize should another look upon him.


keep it together, growls from the depths of his chest, echoing his fury. save yourself until you need to use this. this is your strength, your power, use it and don’t let it use you. there is only one who has wronged you. go find him, and teach him what you mean and what he means in relation.


“This is fucking bullshit,” Luhan tells his reflection, hands balled to fists at his side, shaking.


I know, answers back. but you don’t have to tell me that. go tell the one who ‘matters’ to you so much where he belongs. or have you let him own you?


Kyuhyun looks surprised, Minho disappointed and Kibum inquisitive when Luhan excuses himself early, dropping a large sum of money to cover the evening and having it pushed back into his hands. “Go take care of what you need to take care of,” Minho says, a kind slightly fogged look in his eyes. “We’ll see you on Monday.”




◦❀◦





The way home is a blur, his fingers pressing with insistent force against his phone and checking for messages, calling and getting no response and watching as text after text he sends is never read.


fucker.


“I’m going to kill him,” Luhan growls.


don't waste him like that, growls back. you don’t need to destroy anything to that degree to make it bend to your will. remind him of who you are, and remember that he loves you. remember that you seem so sure you love him. you are the one that’s so adamant to never let him go.


I won’t let him go. I won’t.


I’ll never leave you Luhan, I won’t. I will always be there for you, always.


I won’t let him lie to me, not like I did, not again.


With a pounding heart and head, the bus stops and street lights flash by him, buildings shapeless and bleeding into a collage of colors and shapes and recognition which hazes into aggravation, Luhan stumbles home and flings himself up the stairs to his apartment.


The door is open and Minseok is half way out, furious line to his mouth and he looks up when he hears Luhan, his eyes darkening. He scoffs and it punches into Luhan viciously. “I can’t believe I actually stayed,” Minseok says, voice low and horrific.


He lets out a yell as Luhan rushes forward, his hands moving on their own, grabbing and pushing back and around and twisting painful to earn obedience. Minseok lets out a pathetic and surprised yelp as Luhan’s teeth cement in rage. The door slams shut, locks fitting into place and Minseok stares at him with a face flushed and eyes wide before he laughs.


“What the fuck? Now that I want to go, now that you’re here, I can’t leave?” Minseok’s laugher is bitter and horrible and Luhan hates it, hates it, HATES IT. “Is that how it is?” Laughter spikes through the air and sets fire to the walls. “Of course, that’s how it always is.”


“I have other things to do, you know,” Luhan spits at him, voice splintering in his anger as he advances, whole body tense and waiting for the snap. “I have other things to do with myself than to take care of your fragile and impressionable self. Just because I don’t immediately reply doesn’t mean you can fly off the handle at me. I have other things important in my life. I can’t always cater to you.”


“To me?” Minseok’s voice cracks through the room like a whip as he holds his ground, looking furious and unwarrantedly so. “What the fuck are you on? This isn’t about me, Luhan.”


“Don’t try to flip this around on me,” roars from Luhan before he can calm himself, earning a flinching grimace from his property. “Don't twist this as if you don’t need me, as if you haven’t spent ages pining and that I'm not the best thing that’s ever happened to you.”


“You believe this shit,” Minseok sneers at him, scoffing and laughing and it’s nails against glass and screams irritation and disgust. “You actually believe what you’re saying, the words coming from your mouth. You believe what you’re saying. I’m the problem and you’re perfect.” Teeth grit hard as he yearns to reach out and shake the truth into Minseok and render him into sense. Obedience. Listen to me and the words you say, you worthless underling, I am what you so desire and need. “I’m so fucking done with this shit,” hisses and a second later Minseok is advancing, ducking around him and moving to the door and something snaps so sharp the wires give in.


A scream shatters through the air as Luhan’s body responds before his mind, seizing and preventing, and Minseok’s head snaps back as his back slams into the wall. Vision sharpens to darkness as the lights shake and Minseok grimaces in pain, mouth wide and his features nothing but agony and desolate.


he’s trying to leave you, disobedient Fool.


“The fuck did you just say to me?” tears against the walls that try to fall into place so fast, opening gaping wounds that look to never heal. “You’re leaving me? You’re going to walk out that door?” His hands grip so hard they ache, digging into sinew and firm tissue, earning a yelp and a wince as the body before him stiffens and eyes open to burn in hate. “You can’t leave me, Minseok!”


Shaking, pounding, the slam of bone and the thin layer of skin the only protection as he breaks to yield, to force what cannot be said with words physically, and is met with struggling and vicious rebuttal. “Stop!” rents from a hoarse throat as eyes shine and he cannot see. “Luhan, stop it!”


Limbs lock as the lights flicker and the shadows cast creep up and consume him, slipping down his throat as he leans into Minseok’s face, his weakness showing all over it in fear and anger and desperation. “You will never leave me,” grinds between his teeth and turns his words to dust, inhaled by Minseok’s gasping breaths as his skin pales to pallid paper before everything hardens.


“Fuck you,” Minseok’s words are daggers. “I thought I could help, I thought there was hope, but there is nothing, Luhan. We are nothing.”


Ignite the combustion of everything as it all hones down to one.


fuck. Him.


There is no air, it’s being trapped in his lungs. There is no sound, it’s being cut off by the ringing in his ears. There is no pulse, it’s being held captive by his anger and all he can see is stupidity and denial and weakness. There is nothing but the eye of the hurricane as it looks down upon them and all muscles tense waiting for the strike.


teach him what it means, let him see what you are and what you can do. he doesn’t understand who you are or what it means to be with you so remind him of where you stand in his life, where you are, who you are. he is yours and there is no other way about this. he doesn’t choose when to leave you, doesn’t treat you like worthlessness and nothing, that isn’t his place. He Has No Right.


The fires roar as the dark red of blood rushes between his ears and there is nothing but the insignificant before him. “We are everything,” is low and perilous. do not question me. “You don’t get to say when you leave me, I do.”


“Who are you?” Cracks along sorrow and pain and misery and hurt and the weakness is raw before his eyes, shavings of a being that once was so good and whole rendered to this pale mask before him. “What happened to you, Luhan?”


the hollow shell of an ideal that stands and can break with a simple hammer and the nails to a coffin lid that crack you open and bleed crimson gunshot wounds as sparkling glass looks on and jeers.


“Nothing!” screams and screams and screams as the body in his grasp lurches for freedom that he denies, bones creaking and muscles taut as he holds and pounds and throws back into his territory and his custody.


His right.


“There is Nothing that happened to me. I am still Luhan. I am still me and I am still everything and there isn’t anything wrong with me!” Wide eyes that swim with dark brown and fear glisten in grief. “What changed was you! You were the one that didn’t listen, that didn’t see.”


“STOP,” accompanied by a hard hit has him reeling, spilling over and his skin smarting into an ache as he looks back with wide disbelieving eyes.


“Did you just-“ he hit you.


“I’ll do it again if I have to,” is said with resignation and remorse, shoulders shaking and he can’t process. “I’m done. I fucking done with this, with everything, with the rejection and the imploring, and all of it. One moment you tell me you love me and the next you’re gone and ignoring me and angry and I can’t tell if I’m going crazy or if you are. Shaking breathing and shaking hands and shaking shoulders and everything regresses into the opposite as Luhan looks upon Minseok, his lover, who stands with red knuckles and eyes that shine before him. A rushing begins between his ears as he takes in the one who said he loved him.


“I can’t believe it when you tell me things because I’m never sure what you’re thinking of, where you’re coming from anymore and I feel like we fell apart, but you keep pulling us together and ripping us apart. I want to make this work but there is only so much I can take, that anyone can take. I’m done, Luhan. I’m done.”


Words spun in pretty tales all in a floral bouquet as he looks upon the marks of red and purple which will blossom so pretty by the morning. Anger boils along the fingerprint impressions and all that he can hear is a subtle holocaust of sound that shakes his vision.


“No.”


how DARE he hit you. The storm breaks and brings upon the demolition of the final barricade before him. No words follow but only the increasing roar as he moves without awareness of pain or the struggle under numbed with fury hands, gripping and shoving until the back beneath him is pressed with breaking force into the bed once holy and sanguine. show him what happens.


“Let go!”


what happens when you are disobeyed.


“Luhan!”


“You think that’s it?!” Screams and Shreds through the walls and up the floor, painting them all to bleed as bones crack under his iron fingers. “You think you can just leave me? We are not done, Minseok!” Teeth grit as the bare in defiance up at him, face red with anger and FALSE under his strength as smaller hands push to protest against his might. “You can’t leave me, not really, you will never leave me! You promised! You love me and you don’t fucking leave the person you’re in love with! I never left you!”


“Luhan! Stop it!” Defiance. Rejection. Don’t Let Him Do This.


they would all leave, wouldn’t they have. that’s why you always had to leave first, before they could, cut it off and break it to shatters before they could do this to you, before they could ruin you and expose their lying disgust.


“Or is it that you’ve found something else?” Lift up to slam back down, twisting the back to the bed as he presses down, knee digging into vitality and crushing into nothing that is nothing and crumbling for him. Minseok’s grimacing face as he glares up at Luhan from the ruin of what was once their bed shared and is now nothing but horror, red lines and hate replacing the once euphoria. “Is that it? You feel guilty because you’re off fucking around when you’re not with me? Who is it, Minseok? Who do you have to go to for your sick little trysts?”


“You son of a bitch!” hits with the blow of a fist, throwing him off hard. Minseok is still strong, his anger now so high it burgeons and Luhan feeds on it, latching to it as he grabs the assaulting hand as it reaches back to lay blows again.


“What, no whores for the whore?” His vision swims in black and red and a sickening crack is followed by blinding pain, the jerk back of his head as his nose splits in agony, rushing of blood and the throb of attack. Shock holds him rigid as he is battered and forced to the side, the hot drip of thick blood down his face from the center having him stiffened in stupification as Minseok wrenches his hands free from Luhan’s vice grip, scrambling away.


“I loved you,” rasps over the battlegrounds now smeared with blood, specks lining those porcelain cheeks as tears disfigure him. Weeping for the fallen. “I loved you so much, Luhan. But it was never enough, and it never will be.”


Through the throb in his face and the gash in his chest that no one can see, Luhan latches onto one thing from the fog of tormented babble. “Loved?” he repeats, thick with gore. “You love me.” Swallow around the carnage. “This is-”


I am here, I am here, I am here for you. I love you, Luhan. don’t Forget Me.


“This isn’t love,” cracks as everything shakes and falls away from the bottom out, sucking into a vortex of raging colors that clash and despise. “This, whatever it is, isn’t love anymore, Luhan.”


“But You LOVE ME!” You have, you always have, this is how it is! The slow congealing drip down his face, streaming down his neck and staining him with life and death simultaneously is strangling.


It all begins in blood.


“Not like I did.” you UNWORTHY PIECE OF SHIT. “Not anymore.” HOW DARE YOU REJECT WHAT HAS BEEN GIVEN TO YOU. “I love you, but I can’t do this. I can’t.” He closes his eyes and shuts Luhan out as the sky falls down.


SCREAMING HOWLING WRETCHING THE VILE CREATURE REJECTS THE EXCELLENCE WHICH HAS SO GRACED HIM.


Shake apart with the shattering heart that never healed fully and desperation drives forward as a wordless cry pulls from him, arms frantic to cling and keep and never let go don’t leave ever leave you must Stay. Stumbling from the bed and tripping, he makes to wrap around and keep forever and for a moment, Minseok yields to him again, letting himself be embraced.


“You can’t leave me,” he sobs thickly as blood covered hands smear. Soiling and tarnishing the once true answer. “You need me and I need you and you can’t walk away from me. I can’t let you!” Arms tighten to crush to himself, to absorb without intent to ever release. “I love you, let me do this, don’t go, this will be okay. Don’t go, I love you and you love me and without me you are nothing. You need me and I need you and this can’t end, it can never end, it will never end.” Fingers dig into soft tissue and seek to render immobile and forever his as pain throbs through his face and wreaths around their hearts.


“No more! I can’t take anymore!” howls through the murk of misery and as his hands close the blunt blow to his chest as him flung back into the hard cold nothing as pounding and slams are all that answers his silent pleas of mercy.


The door shakes after the departure and silence is all that follows after.


he left you.


Stop it.


he left you and forgot you and abandoned you, Luhan


I Hate you!


Cold high and cruel laughter. YOU CAN’T HATE ME screeches from the darkened mirror as wild burning eyes and a jagged smile look down at him, fists pressed hard as he watches in hunger. I AM YOU AND YOU CAN NEVER, EVER HATE ME AS MUCH AS I LOVE YOU, LUHAN. YOU NEED ME.


Fingers bathed in his own blood thread through his hair as his mouth opens in a gaping maw, arching off the writhing floor in spine snapping screams as lacerations spread from the core out and beckon his downfall.


such a wonderful boy, so beautiful and special and perfect just as he is. who could not love such a wonderful boy as this?


“Stop,” sobs as tears of blood carve tracks down his face and slick over the floor in visual depiction of his torment.


I will never let you go. I love you too much to do so.


“You promised,” whispers into the cold unkind floor as all that is left in the small apartment is shadow and loss.




◦❀◦





Under the skin is complexity and intricacy, the binding of sinew, flesh, meat and bone and veins, tendons, sinew, muscle and small capillary glands. With just the right amount of pressure, the skin can break, the infrastructure underneath the protective surface falling victim to outside forces and influence, an external assailant the thing which changes the delicate balance on the surface and under it. The soft flesh that otherwise remains pale and porcelain smooth, the stretch of immaculate body and ease only broken when something mars its path.


The skin flushes as capillaries fill with blood, rising the color and the temperature of it from either emotional and carnal response or in reply to a sudden attack, flushing as a response while pain triggers as the neural reception tells the brain that something has been injured and may be injured further.


The face in the mirror looking back at him is ugly, red trickling still down over lips now stained crimson and bloody, open and panting as the nose that is so horrific is blocked for normal respiratory function. Broken? Perhaps, but broken things may be fixed, they can be mended and many people have been broken before, their faces put beyond repair and recognition and brought back to life and their glory.


you look hideous.


A sigh fans against the glass, his heart beating too hard and too loud and cutting out the sound of the water washing gently down through tracks of red in the sink. It is caked under his fingernails, disgusting ruined dark copper and brown. The steam of the shower rises around him, wreathing him in white and making the ends of his dark brown hair damp, clinging to him as he looks at his reflection and examines the dark purple and split skin of his nose.


it could be worse, murmurs gently as he feels the steam creep up his back, tendrils tickling at his bare skin as he stands and the sound of the water drowns out his breathing in the reverberating walls of the bathroom. you could be all alone, with no one after him. just abandoned by one lover who you thought would be the last and left to decay in your misery. think of that, my sweet.


The steam licks along his back, climbing higher and higher as it wraps around him, eyes blinking slowly at him in the reflection as the fog sinks into his mind.


In the kitchen there are six bottles in the sink, empty and half cracked, discarded and sucked dry and the water in the shower that pounds against the walls is a mimicry of the thinned blood in his veins that swirls him down the drain as he gasps in blood tasting air. He coughs and red droplets splatter across the mirrors surface, over his face reflective.


you look so good in red, curls around him, lapping against skin heated and prickling in half numb sensitivity as his fingers curl around the edges of the sink basin, knuckles turning white. you look best like this. Breathe out. with nothing hiding you from view.


A whisper over skin that is soft and supple to the touch, twining along strong toned arms and thighs of steel, nuzzling at his stomach and sighing against him.


I need nothing more from you than this, Luhan. I will never ask you to do things you aren’t ready to do, beg from you and push you further than you can go. I know your limits, which are boundless, but I know how to please you, I know what you want, how to give you everything.


His strength is weakening, staring down the rabbit hole as it draws out and digs in from the edges and the longer he looks at the face in the mirror, the more whole it becomes. Slowly, the flesh repairs, the skin returning from broken and bruised to smooth and flawless as the eyes look less broken and hollow and dead, full of loss and an empty heart, and take on vitality that he only begs for now. That he yearns for more and more as the stark world begins to nip at the edges of his darkened senses.


“I love him,” cracks his voice to slip down the shower walls and drain away into nothing as his shoulders shake. “Why did he leave me? Why do they all have to leave me?” All the ones who he has loved, truly loved, in the end they drop him and refuse. They all leave and it always ends with blood somehow.


oh precious, smoothes as the figure before him strikes sympathy over it’s breathtaking features, softening into compassion and affection. oh my dear sweet one, I warned you. Up reaches a hand, so like his own, though his remains on the sink basin, gripping too hard and turning the same color of the porcelain under it. The hand stretches out, fingertips, white and clean of blood, press to the surface of the mirror, longing to reach and touch. To hold him and love him. Luhan pines for a touch as such as he is offered in the mirror as a hollow war cry sounds from the trapped components of his past still tucked away and now buried under the rubble of his mind.


I told you, Luhan, the perfection in the mirror speaks to him with words laced with the fragrance of flowers and the greatness of the universe. I told you he would leave you. I saw and I mourned for how he did not love you, not as he should have, not as you deserve and need to be loved.


Luhan wants to close his eyes, throat tight and aching as the holes that have spread through him, ruptured through him like a barrage of bullets imbedding into his flesh in iron wads of despair. “I know.”


do you see what happens when you don’t listen to me, Luhan? the sweet and caring voice caresses over him, hands sliding up with airy touches that flicker over his skin, hot with sentiment. The water falls down and sloshes into his mind as the cry of the ocean lingers at the back of his throat. do you see what happens when you don’t let me in? when you shut me out and reject me? I am not your enemy. I never have been and I never will be. I only want the best for you.


Bones shake and hearts no longer beat, the drops of blood flecking into the sink below him before being swept away to return the surface gleaming clean and immaculate.


why do you still reject me so? pleads from the glass, from lips perfectly succulent and Luhan’s feet slip on the floor damp with water and his own life source. The eyes on his own flicker in concern. I am not trying to hurt you but make you see the truth. Swallow around the spines of lies he has been drinking his whole life. Only I love you, break the glass. you can’t trust the others. I can. I will, I want to find a way. stop letting them in to only hurt you. only I can love you the way you want to be loved. only i know how and only I can. let me.


The curl within as his fingers clench and his chest rises and falls with the rapidity of breath, eyes closed. Opening to the blur of sound and light, he sees himself, nose broken and bloody and a face pure and whole beside him, behind him with arms around him, the feeling ghosting in the mist and his breath catches.


“No.”


let me love you, please, my love will do nothing but heal your battered heart and soul.


“I don’t need it,” gasps out as he turns his head to the vision wrapped around him and sees himself alone in the bathroom, empty but for the swimming sounds of water and his own pounding heart. “I don’t love you like that, like you drain from me to do so.”


who else can you love then if not yourself? coos back, hands touching invisible and he feels the breath against the side of his neck, sensitive and prickling. His mouth dries with revulsion and sickening desire as he does not stop. Wind from lips whistles along vulnerable flesh rising to the feeling.


you don’t need anyone else but me, Luhan, draws over him, darkening his vision as it swims and sinks down into the hollow moan of the depths of himself. you need no one else to truly love you, and who are you to say you do not love me in this way when I already know. I already have seen your heart, feeble as it beats within you but with a persistence that I so adore. I have see your soul and you are everything that is anything. I can love you the way you want to be loved, the way you should be loved. Have you forgotten me?


I told you to never forget me, Luhan. You promised me you never would. Are you so fickle to refuse me even now?



Drifting into the weightless space of nothing, Luhan opens his eyes as he lets himself slip down, down, down into nothing and the fluorescent lights of the bathroom blind against his eyes as the floor rips from under his feet. “No,” gasps from weak lips, cracked and fragile.


there is only us, Luhan. Falling down, down, down as the world slows and each individual drop of water stands suspended falling from the shower faucet to join the rest in their race to the drain. Only us, two as one.


don’t be weak.


Give up, my love, and let me embrace you at last.


Consent never comes, only the sickening crack as the ceiling rises higher and higher and a blinding flash of white splits to the side of his head before compressing to black.


I will always wait for you.


I will always be here for you.


there is no other place I want to be than with you, Luhan. do you not feel the same, my love?


until the end of your days, the end of your time here upon this earthly plane, I will stay with you, reside with you, love you and cherish you and when the time comes, you will never feel that crippling sense of loneliness.


I will never let you die alone, I swear it, my love, I swear.




◦❀◦





The gun lay only having been loaded with only one shot, dropped to the carpet alone and forlorn with it’s master slumped to the ground beside it. The eyes remained open and glassy, the red seeped long ago as far as it could into the carpet, staining it red and polluting the carpet with a forever taint of metallic and meat.


There was no one home, the doors locked from the inside and the windows all the only witnesses with their walls as confidants. There had been no one else, no one to hold a shaking hand and a voice to take the weapon and wrap in arms and speak to a trembling heart ‘I am here for you, and I see you suffer.’


It was alone, and with the final pull of the trigger, there was no one else who followed and held and joined, only a one man’s cowardly journey to the darkness beyond and the sadness and grief that had consumed his weak heart and sickened mind.


Alone.


Luhan opens his eyes slowly to the ceiling of the bathroom, the water sticking to his back as it washes over the floor, cleaning and lapping against him and the cool tile is refreshing. He blinks, slow and methodically, the light fixture swimming into view and registering in his mind as present and observing.


His back aches, his nose throbbing from the assault and his head aches, sticky to the touch from when everything pulsed and collapsed the eve previous when conversations were sixteen sided and made of polished blood flecked glass.


His water bill this month is going to go up.


In five days, Luhan will move out.


“I am not alone,” he speaks with a low emotionless voice, sprawled in the space between the wall and the toilet with his legs aching from stiffness and his mind blurry with faces, names, and voices that all roll into one that speaks in a low rumbling.


I am always here with you, caresses down to press into his lips as his eyes fall closed once more.




◦❀◦





Be brave, my love. Be strong and fast and sure. Triumph where others fail and show them all the might that you possess. Reach for the world and when the stars cast you down, let my arms be that which you fall into. Let me be the one who holds you when you are in times of need, let me keep you safe and warm and loved. Let me be your ‘here’. Let me be your everything just as you are mine.


I so long for you, words cannot speak it, my desire and my yearning, the grief which I have born to have you accept me, to have you see my pain, my hurt, and my affection. I see you suffer as you never see me and I weep to reach out and ease your suffering. Would that you let me do this, I would never let any harm come to you.


Please do not let us both suffer in this way. Please accept you, accept me, accept us, and let us be whole and one and no longer cracked and so grievously injured where our love is cast in two. Where I love and seek to be loved and your blindness and fear keeps you from seeing how magnificent and wonderful you are.


Can you not see me? Can you not see my love? Can you not see your own?





◦❀◦





There are no comments at work, only the looks and a few passing whispers that mean nothing and fall on deaf ears as mindless tasks consume Luhan’s time and focus. He doesn’t hear, doesn’t see, and chooses not to acknowledge the foolish chattering of whimsical minds. Tomorrow is the last day, and he leaves. The period of break is over and the distractions cease and the buzzing in his mind rises amid a flurry of whispers and muted admonishments and simpering voices.


The apartment is cleared, furniture absent and the space vacant, holding almost no trace that there had been a temporary home, a place of sanctuary and happiness and comfort, a place of love for such a short time. The walls hold nothing but observations and Luhan dropped the keys three days before their scheduled return, looking away from memories and looking ahead at something better.


“You sure you can’t join us for one last game?” Minho asks as he walks by, his voice softer and kinder than usual as he looks at Luhan and the pity makes Luhan’s stomach turn.


"Sorry," Luhan says, his voice distant on his ears as his hands ache from pulled muscles and blows that shook too hard. "I really can't. I have to go home for a bit before going back to uni. You know what that is like, the whole dull transition period between job and school and home." He offers Minho a final smile as the feeling in his mouth heightens to revulsion at the idea of remaining in this city which has done nothing but offer pollutants to his life, darkness and tainting him with filth. "You're just going to have to do your best without me."


"Hey," Minho says as Luhan makes to turn back to his work and a mantle of exhaustion settles over him. The weekend had been spent moving furniture, scrubbing stains and blocking out the lack of another presence that seemed to linger about him no matter where he looked.


All texts come up with nothing and Luhan isn't going to fight. It isn’t his job to remind Minseok of what he’s given up, what he’s forsaken, what he’s doing to himself, to them, to him.


He needs time. He just needs time to understand, to realize.


he left you, Luhan. don't try to convince yourself otherwise. he left you and no degree of space is going to make him come back. he's gone, because you let him leave. you let him walk away from you like the ingrate he is.


Luhan breathes in, looking up at Minho and trying to appear nonchalant when everything he does feels like a trail of Hell. "Yeah?"


"If you need anything," Minho begins with a vague hand gesture and Luhan's eyebrow raises. "Just- you know." He offers him a weakened smile that is laced with empathy.


My condolences for your loss are the standards that seem to pass with every experience Luhan slams into and his fingers are stiff and sore from the restraint of holding onto the reality that the pity does nothing but aggravate the anger and the wound that he licks clean to heal himself.


we don’t need your patronizing sympathetic repose.


"Thanks," Luhan says, disjointed though it does the job of sounding sincere and real. Real enough that Minho smiles and flashes him a wave. Real enough that Junhong beside him doesn't look up from his desk all day and that Yoona still laughs over the break lunch table. His smile is real enough that he doesn't get questions as the day progresses, and when he looks at his face in the bathroom mirror, he can see the fading of purple bruising and closing skin from the garish disfigurement on his face.


you're still handsome, soothes as the phantom feeling of arms wrap around his waist and the only thing he wants now is for those arms to be real, for the voice to be different and the feeling to return to his world. I still think you're the most beautiful and handsome thing that exists, Luhan.


The want for gentle caring kisses to press down his neck in a slow exposition of him, a reassurance of his being and his validity. inner beauty and outer surpassing all that may appear in your life. all those before or after you hold no competition. it would do others well to remove the blinds from their eyes and see the same.


"Then why did he leave?" Luhan asks, his voice hollow as it reverberates off the tiled walls and the enclosed space of the bathroom, his own question asked to him a thousand times over. "Why did he leave me?"


you don't need him purrs as he closes his eyes from the image of himself in the mirror opposite. he wasn't worth it if he didn't stay. he wasn't worth it, Luhan. You need someone who will truly love you and adore you. all he kept seeing were flaws, saying there was something wrong when there clearly isn't, my love. he kept wanting to change you, do something that so corrupted the perfection which already exists. you don't change the person you love to make them worthy of your love, Luhan. You love them for who they are and don't force them to become something they aren’t. he didn't truly love you, not as all of you, as a whole and he didn’t know how, couldn’t know how. it would have ended in suffering sooner or later, so don't give him your time, your energy. use it elsewhere, and let yourself be rid of his menace.


The air that fills his lungs is cool and recycled, pure and passing to give him life and keep his body sustained. He thinks back, on the way his father's pathetic existence had been shut down so swiftly with just a piece of metal and iron passing through his skull. He thinks of how Yixing and Jongin both suffered from weakness, their bodies giving way after so much use and time and strain on it, weakening to the point that their faces twisted in agony at a wrong turn. He thinks of his own issues, the bone nearly broken in his face but thankfully not. He thinks of Minseok's yells and curses as Luhan so easily moved him as was necessary.


He thinks of the human body and how easily it breaks just as much as how amazingly it endures so much.


you do not break easily, Luhan. You are stronger than anything that has yet come to be.


"Am I so?" he asks, soft and lingering at the edges of his lips.


move on curls around his thoughts and pulls him back into the darker places, the rubble clearing as winds move over it and turning it to dust, flecked with silver and onyx and vanishing into the sky. move on from this pain, my love. move on from this terrible episode of a love that was not freely given. he tried to love you, but he himself was so flawed and broken he couldn't see anything but his own flaws projected onto you.


“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” - Siddhārtha Gautama



"No," Luhan pulls back, stepping from the mirror and turning away, averting himself from the pristine figure he knows is standing watching and waiting for him. Hands pressed to glass that leave no imprint upon removal, detached from him and just out of reach, the cold thin barrier under his hands as his own breath fogs the eyes filled with love and languish that fix on him and never stray.


you can't hold on forever, reminds him and the words are true even if he hates the notion of acceptance. Life moves on and he must move on and to linger is weak and foolish and pathetic. think of how this has so burdened you. think of how it is everything that you are not supposed to be. the lingering of feelings such as these are what make a person weak and vulnerable. they drive them to madness, to depression to shame and lack of self worth.


A low building curl in his abdomen draws his attention as the ghosting of fingers begins to crawl down his stomach, holding him secure and steady. those others who succumbed to such horrible thoughts that proved nothing but weakness and lack of self value. those who do not have the right to live are the ones that do not survive. you have passed that barrier since you were born, living and thriving and walking through life with a head held high and everything to show for it.


Open his eyes to look to the wall and breath deep and even breaths. He sees and stands and exists in this time frame, on this plane, even as he sees and stands and exists on the other, standing in the sands of thought and wind which has taken the once atrium high structure and brought it down so it is nothing but desert sands of opal black and the long stretch of brilliant swimming cosmic color above him. With two eyes he sees and with a third, he observes.


you are whole.


On his last day of his internship, Luhan smiles and is greeted with hugs and well wishes from his coworkers, laughing and reminiscent of the summer as they drop by and bid him farewell. He will be back, he promises them. He will come back and join them.


Yes, he is okay. more than okay. Yes, he is fine.


“Luhan?” Kyuhyun asks, a hand on his shoulder and eyebrows risen in question as he looks down at his intern who has so exceeded his expectations.


“I’m great,” Luhan tells him, the honest rock between his lungs sinking deeper and deeper into him, keeping him steady, keeping him stone.


you are perfect whispers and his smile turns sweet as the summer rain on the ground outside as the classical music drifts gently from his mother’s office and is the only thing that fills an empty house.


you are Luhan.


I am everything.




◦❀◦





The hot stick of the air to his skin is disgusting, the summer sun still too high in the sky as he looks at the door before him to a house he is expected to still refer to as a home when he wonders if there exists such a place any longer. There is everything here, memory upon memory which all cycles back and spirals into the ugly display of reality which he for so long was better to ignore. The laughter which was always just enough contained in the walls, the rooms carefully laid out with each piece of furniture in it’s exact proper location.


Proper.


The clothing on his back, draped around his form and setting him into the image of excellence is proper, his posture, straight and strong with shoulders back and radiating the confidence he has been so drilled to exhibit, is proper. The styling of his hair, the academic and personal history that the neighbors and company fellows have been boasted to about, the wonderful vision of a son who will do nothing but progress far beyond that which the father had faulted in.


you are not him. you will never be him.


In the dying rays of the sunlight from August, Luhan doesn’t open the door on natural whim and method. Instead he stands, waiting with his bag slung over his shoulders and the feeling of the wood against his knuckles from knocking, the lingering pain from his face forced to the back of his mind. He waits, lacking all expression and imposition, breath passing in and out of his lungs as he feels the soft touch of fingers slip down the side of his neck following the lines of translucent perspiration.


The door opens after far too long and his mother blinks up at him, her eyes drawing wide for a moment before she steps back. “You knocked,” she says and Luhan doesn’t move. He hadn’t expected to be home this early, ahead of schedule and skin itching to move and rid himself of the noise and clamor of the city as fast as he could. The resonance of it still echoes in his mind, drifting in through open windows as he lay in a bed that bled with regret and hate and a body shivered with life in his arms only to rip from him when he needed it most.


“Is that not what is appropriate, mother?” Luhan asks, watching as the sunlight plays over her face, casting her features into brightness and the orange and red tints of the dying sun. “You look well.”


“You look-” the words falter and Luhan doesn’t want to listen to her and her commentary about his appearance and how it is potentially displeasing to her, how he shows the impact of a breakup in plain view over his face.


“Am I to eat on my own tonight or are we dining together?” Luhan asks, stepping forward and watching as she steps back in turn, her face darkening and the distance is vast, further than it ever was. He no longer wants to cross it, to venture over the long hard terrain and black sands that slip from his hands and drag him down to nothing as her eyes harden and she can’t see for her own blindness.


“I didn’t expect you home until later,” his mother says, stepping back still further and even her voice is far away. Luhan looks at her and sees the wraith of the woman he knew, a figment of the mother who was so strong, who raised him to fight and to bite back to those who defied him and to remember to never give in and never give up.


Of course she didn’t. Luhan hadn’t called ahead to tell her he would be early. He hadn’t called her to tell her his face had been nearly broken. He called her to only tell her that he was coming home today and may be late depending on the traffic and his own work schedule.


The care is no longer for him.


I care for you though. I will always care for you and about you. you don’t need others, only me, my love.


“Are you hungry?” she asks, and her eyes flicker as she watches him pass her, disregarding and clipped.


“No.” The ache in his abdomen is less from hunger and the spike up his chest is more of a certification of himself. you should eat. “I’m fine.” don’t ignore me and take care of yourself. you always take care of other things except for yourself. school and work always came before your own health and happiness.


Happiness.


The smiles on his face and he breathes in hot acrid air.


“Have you told Zitao you are home?” His jaw clenches at the mention of the other, his cousin, still at home and still pining after another boy who shows him none of the affection he fruitlessly desires. “Or Yixing? I haven’t heard from him or about him in a while from-”


“Yixing and I don’t hang out anymore,” Luhan cuts her off tersely. “I’m tired.” rest with me. “I will see you in the morning.”


“Luhan,” comes hard and curt and has his feet pausing as they mount the stairs, turning sharply to the eyes that are just as brutal directed at him.


“What?” blithe and uncaring. What right has she to speak to him with such a tone, as if he causes the problems here and not she? She who judged and pushed and forced him into this world and then was still too wrapped in her own world to understand the paragon her son had become.


you don’t need her approval, Luhan. you don’t need her anymore.


“Is that all?” she asks and it’s cruel.


His eyes narrow briefly as they meet hers, a spidering of tension stringing up his back and over his skin, etching into his flesh in revulsion. “Is it never enough?” he asks, low and soft and with the edge of peril to it that flashes her pretty face a shade uncalled for and far from beautiful. “Is none of it ever enough for you? Must you be so covetous and insatiable?” Pretty eyes darkened around the edges to give emphasis widen in shock at his words.


you don’t need her. DROP her. walk away, she means nothing, none of them mean anything and they all will do nothing but disappoint you. His hand grip tightens on the strap of his bag as he looks at the woman who brought him life and introduced him to death so early as he looked into a dark wood coffin and gazed down at the gruesome figure of his worthless father and everything he could never become. leave her for now, she is nothing and you do not need to waste your strength on her. be patient, my love. she cannot understand and see you. it is her loss.


No words pass from her lips as they part gently and her face flashes with turmoil, emotion that even she cannot seem to comprehend and Luhan resists the urge to sneer. He has done all she taught him, all she expected, to never let the others consume him like they had his father, to bring him down into the depths of despair and dependency.


He needs no one.


Not even her.


“I’ll be in my room,” he tells her, voice cold and simple. “Please don’t wait up and good evening.” Turn from the final junction and ascend to his respected place.


“Luhan,” speaks finally and is softer, imploring and exposed, the weakest he has ever heard from her and he doesn’t turn, continuing from the last frail entity which he must still hold onto for necessity.


The room is the same. It is all always the same. The bed with too many memories of himself and others now imprinted in the patterns unseen against the sheets and the lamp still with the same casting glow to the desk that remains uncluttered. His bag drops and the figure in the mirror smirks as it leans against the frame.


you let yourself get so worked up, he speaks, brushing his dark bangs from his face. why do you let her affect you still so strongly? what worth does she have for you now? you know you are worth more than she projects and that she is too blind to see.


“Shut up,” Luhan tells him and earns a laugh. The mirror ripples as the laughter rings between his ears and his vision swims. He is tired, so tired and the crippling exhaustion and tension stretches over him.


don’t say I don’t know because we both know that I do. A sigh as bright brown eyes trail over him and teeth gently nudge into a bottom lip, leaving it swollen and pretty. why don’t you rest? please? just let go and let us be? I promise that no harm will come of it.


His throat is dry, raw from work and talking and too much caffeine from coffee dripping down it, parched to the dry black of an endless desert. His eyes feel filled with sand and as he closes them he feels it drip over himself, a cascade as grains of it slip down his skin, scouring him and scraping away all of the grime and dirt from the world. The black granules skittering over his skin and leaving it tender and new, supple and smooth to the touch and he gasps in as a figmented touch brushes over him, a mouth just barely whispering to his and his heart dives for it in lust.


just one more step, one more thing that you have to do and we can be. let me have you Luhan, just as you wish for it to truly be. for someone to love you, to see you, to have the best and be with the best. you know who you are and you know what is rightfully yours. take it, take yourself, take me.


Open his eyes to look back into the familiar reflection in a white tiled room, the clean laundered towels behind his mirrored vision of himself. The medicine cabinet is the same, the running of the water in the shower beside him exactly as it always is, the light drumming of the water reminiscent of the rain that falls and washes the world clean, the surface flashing when disrupted and when still, smooth as glass and displaying the world upside down in all bodies of immobile water.


The rain disrupts the balance and starts it over.


lie with me. echoes as he in the mirror stands behind him in the world, eyes meeting as it wraps around him and he watches as hands trail down, trail over and cheeks flush with passion and care, the lingering feeling prickling over his own bare skin. be with me and allow me. stop fighting me, Luhan, and just embrace yourself. reach out and take it, take you, take me, take us.


He closes his eyes, blocking it out and the sigh against his skin is in resignation as the steam begins to nip at his senses and crumble away.




◦❀◦





The obnoxious buzzing continues, loud and irritating and Luhan resists the urge to slam his face under his pillow in irritation for the knowledge of doing so would only cause him pain. His nose is still bruised, still marred though the damage is barely visible.


it will heal in time. Luhan sighs, a long exhale as he flops back into the bed, the mattress formed to his body and springing lightly at his weight. you are always a vision to behold regardless of slight imperfection and you know it. I have the privilege where many do not of knowing how gorgeous you are in all portions and seeing them forever.


Creep.


A high amused laugh as the vibration begins to agitate his phone over his desk once more and Luhan grits his teeth in a snarl before finally hurling himself from the bed to answer the infernal device. “What?”


“God, do you ever answer your phone anymore?”


Stiffen as his eyes clear, his grip on his phone a vice as his blood runs cold. why didn’t you check? You always check. Fool The line shouldn’t be connected, the call shouldn’t be answered and Luhan’s eyes flash to the desk which is vacant of all things save for the journal which never leaves and has pages leaking from it in a repulsive ooze of discoloration. He swallows down a throat filled with black sands. he doesn’t deserve to talk to you, are you really going to speak to him after all of his behavior?


“Why are you calling me?” It takes a moment for his voice to calm enough to speak properly. The clock on the bedside table reads just past eight in the morning. “I thought you had other things you resigned yourself to rather than myself.”


watch him crawl, watch him repent. if he has realized what you mean and are to him, will you allow him back? will you let him come back to you and slime him way back into your favor? are you so weak as to still need someone such as he?


There is a long silence on the other end. “I just wanted to-“


“To what? To chat? To catch up like old times?”


“To see if you’re okay,” is less kind now, a greater bite that is laced with other tones that are too difficult to decipher through the phone. “Honestly, I just haven’t talked to you in so long and this summer was weird.”


“Why?” Luhan snaps too fast, straightening to stand and he stares into nothing but the memories that flash from a long history that ended with betrayal. “Because you regretted it? Because you refused to talk to me? To even contact me the whole summer?”


“Look, this summer sucked okay, and I just wanted-“


“To what?” Luhan has no patience, no more tolerance for this, not the spin and the tuck and the game that goes no where. A game is not fun when the conclusion is an unequal balance and the scales are already tipped. He saw where the ending of this was, where Yixing chooses others and runs from himself and his own realities and rejects the truths of his life and smears Luhan with figments of his own ineptitude. “To talk? You want to talk to me now Yixing? After all the shit you pulled and-“


“Shit I pulled?” is loud and high on the other end of the line and Luhan’s air is hot in his lungs as he breathes it into the furnace of irritation.


hang up the phone. His fingers tighten on the small device and the plastic crackles against the pressure. hang up the phone now, Luhan.


There is a loud sigh over the phone, static driven and a sharp turn of the head has pain spiking through Luhan’s nose, the harsh movement irritating the injury and his heart slams in hideous reminder of all those who lost him.


“Look,” sighs.


Hang Up NOW.


“I didn’t call to fight with you,” Yixing sounds tired, like he’d rather do anything but revisit the stupidity that had caused this rift by Yixing’s own foolish action and warmongering. “I called because I missed you and wanted to see how you were doing. I haven’t seen you for so long.”


do you see what he’s doing?


“You missed me?” Luhan asks, voice quieter as his eyebrows raise, a slight numbing spreading through his limb. “I see,” he says and Yixing is silent on the other end, waiting. “You missed me, Yixing, you didn’t realize what it would mean, to refuse me, to reject me and to do all that you did. Did you realize your mistake?” A victorious sneer draws over his mouth as his eyes flash and the light streaming into the room is still not enough to fill the shadows that still linger as the walls bow around him.


“My-“


“Mistake,” Luhan snarls in triumph. HE NEVER UNDERSTOOD HE NEVER LET IT BE. HE LEFT YOU AND DESTROYED WHAT YOU HAD. HOW CAN YOU THINK OF TRUSTING HIM AGAIN? “And now here you are crawling back to me because you understand.”


“I’m, Luhan stop, no,” Yixing’s voice is too fast, too rapid and falling over itself as it spills into Luhan’s ears in ugly poisonous venom.


all the affection, all the love, all the caring, will you take it back when you know he’ll just rip it from you so soon and cast you to death and destruction when he is even slightly threatened? You are better than him, deserve more than he can give you, and should never settle with him. you settled once and you know the menace of that ending.


“You need me, you’re calling me because you miss me and you need me,” Luhan’s breathing is too fast, short and his words come out half supported and sounding desperate where he isn’t. “You need me, don’t you. You need me in your life, you want me there and you realize that.”


“I miss my best friend,” Yixing says, voice firm and strong and it punctuates in a staccato rhythm into his thoughts that spiral and scream and blow with the tantrum winds over the sands and the cosmic violence that has replaced the sanctuary. “I want my best friend back, Luhan.”


“You want me back.” Luhan is triumphant. Of course Yixing wants him back, of course Yixing would realize how necessary Luhan is, how significant and irreplaceable Luhan is. How vital his presence is and how blessed Yixing has been to have him for so long, to be in such high held favor for such a period of time. To know Luhan at all.


“I want things to go back to how they were, before everything changed,” Yixing’s voice chokes and it stabs everything to a halt.


“Nothing changed!” howls through the wind and the grip around is too strong, too suffocating as the spots in his vision sharpen to holes of emptiness.


“It did, Luhan!” Yixing never yells, rarely yells, the experience shocking when he does for someone who is so calm and easy going and Luhan feels his bones lock and joints seize. “It did change! I don’t know what happened or what it was but it all changed, it has been changing and I don’t know if it was you or me or Minseok-“


rip open the veils and tear it apart and to pieces and never let it rest again as the steady gushing of trauma cascade into anguish and the sobs choke in his throat as his eyes remain dry and he can’t. let. Go.


LUHAN.


Eyes slam shut and block out everything as he steps back, breath seizing in his chest as it pitches beyond anger, beyond rage, beyond fury and he shakes, the hands that had passed down so gently the cause of the wreckage that mars his visage.


I WARNED YOU. I TOLD YOU NO BUT YOU DIDN’T LISTEN. HE NEVER LOVED YOU LIKE YOU NEEDED. I WARNED YOU AND YOU REJECTED EVERYTHING THAT WAS TRUE


“Don’t fucking talk about that!” bellows as he nearly hurls the phone, casting it away and destroys the disfigured reminder. “You don’t know anything about what the fuck happened between us. You just stood at the sides and watched, you didn’t care, you never did, you selfish fuck. You’re worse than him, than anyone and you have no right to bring that up.” There is no air, there is no space to breathe and the psychobabble at the other end of the line falls into a muffled garble. “You’re crawling back, thinking now that he’s fucked it all up, you can come back and be welcomed with kindness, with relief, because you can never be as bad as he was.”


Stop it. STOP it you can’t talk about this. You DO NOT let them see how much it can affect you. You DO NOT love them. You DO NOT.


who can I love? who can love me?


What is love but a twisted design for lies and treachery to slip in and devastate all that was once beautiful? Love, the cause of war, of death, of all of the most famous tradegy and the greatest and hardest to heal wounds. The greatest joy and the strongest curse.


don’t let them drag you under, don't let them do as they did to him, don’t let yourself be weak as you have been. don’t trust them, they will only seek to tear you down. people always destroy that which is better than they are for jealousy and envy. do not let them do so to you, Luhan. for you are too perfect to DESTROY as they so thirst to do so.


“That’s not-“


“Fuck you,” hiss and hate and push back and back and back before it can latch into him again. He doesn’t believe in lies, the doesn’t trust them anymore, tired of trusting and being stripped to treachery so soon after. “You’re not calling because you care about me, because you’re worried about me but because you fucking need me, because you want me, you wish you had me, you want to use me. Your selfishness is revolting.”


“This isn’t you,” gasps and crumbles and he can’t see, vision clouding black as he breathes fire and needles and the world tilts too far and his balance compromises. He’s going to fall. I’ll catch you always. Plummet to the ground and smash into dust. I will heal you. Vanish from the horrific cage that he’s been constructed into. I am here for you. “What happened to you that made you like this? What went wrong?”


Futile fissures inlay so deep they break to the other side. “THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME,” rips through the air and the phone resides no longer at his ear but before his mouth as he screams the answer and releases the grip. The clatter the floor isn’t heard as the screen cracks and his hands instead thread into his hair, fingers pressing hard into his skull to hold it together, to contain the pounding rage that beats its way free and it all combusts.


NEVER LISTEN TO HIM booms and thunders and his back bows forward as his mouth gapes. my beautiful one, you are whole, you are everything you are WORTHLESS without me and with him you are WRETCHED and vile and THIS IS WHERE YOU ARE EVERYTHING.


The flash of millions, all the same, the reflection and the manifestation as hands reach and grab and pull him down, the skies a chaos of color and madness as it spikes too far to see and he is swallowed in a sea of himself and all hands pulling and grappling for him, with him as he fights and his mouth stretches so wide it swallows him whole.


A blackness that is darker than the dead of nothing and he breathes in liquid metal that stiffens and blocks his life into stagnation.


no others, only me, swallows him as the ideal of his paradigm flashes before him, gripping and pulling and he feels his knees hit the floor painfully and lets out a loud yell.


“Luhan!” yells suddenly and splinters through him, his eyes flashing open.


Fear laces over those pretty features and his mother’s hand rests gripping white on the doorknob as she looks at him like she has never looked at him before.


“Get out!” he rasps, voice nothing but ice and slaughter and her breaths catch. “Get the fuck out.” Hesitation and “NOW!”


The door slams and with ragged breathing Luhan turns to face the shadows that fall down the walls to creep towards him, two decades of memories slithering towards him to claim him as theirs and he reels back to knock over the only barrier from himself.


A crash and the mirror almost shatters, creaking as he lies atop it and he on the other side pounds noiseless fists and screams in distraught terror as he tries to reach himself and the roar of everything implodes and tunnels to black.




◦❀◦





The gentle rustle of his hair is soothing, the soft brushing of air against his skin calming and the fragile draw of warm fingertips the tranquil peace he so requires. He needs, he years, he has pined for this, the pure and abject devotion in these delicate touches and his throat clenches as behind his eyes begins to prickle with the immensity of it all.


don’t let them see you cry, for they will find you weak.


oh my dear love, you never must hide such things from me. settles with impeccable kindness and ardor into him with the embrace of love. there is no weakness in you for weeping before me, with me, for I cannot be with you and weep with you if you do not weep with me.


Shake with the force of it and the desperation to be free, to reach blindly for that touch, that feeling, and the acceptance of all of him.


you are not wrong, you are not sick, you are not weak or broken or bad. do you understand? you are my everything and will you ever let me be yours as I so want to be.


The brush of lips to his is so tender and sweet the sorrow of wonders cannot be expressed by any piece or song or language for the wretched surge in his being.


“Do you love me?”


A soft laugh that is his own and yet not for he has never heard such love before from his own lips. I always have, Luhan. I’ve just been waiting for you to love me back.




◦❀◦





“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.”― Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays





◦❀◦





The next morning dawns gorgeous and spiking dawn in hues of pink and blue and purple yellows over the horizon, seeping into the room and splaying over the crumpled form that curls on the bed and reflects off the lamp surface on the table beside it. A gnaw in the stomach waits for substance and a wince paints over the delicate and inhumanly pretty features on the face of the man sleeping fitfully, shivering despite the stiff posture.


With a jerk, Luhan wakes and sits up sharply, breathing too fast as sheets slide down his body and leave the bare skin to open air.


good morning, my love.


Eyes squeeze shut as a pained grimace consumes his looks, the final bruising faded and the skin almost entirely closed in healing.


you slept with me. rested together though you did not fully, but do you not feel better?


Hands rise to run over his face, heels pressing into his eyes as he breathes evenly through his nose and tries to focus.


do not refuse me so, I do not mean to be the enemy you treat me as.


The outline of a perfectly proportioned being rests with him, the lingering feeling of it around him, laying to him and holding and fitting with the conforming that can only be the incomplete joining together to form the absolute. He shivers as the feeling rescinds and he wishes for it not to go.


A soft laugh. I am never gone, it says in a voice he knows best from his own throat that curls around him, warm and tempting. it is only you who choose to push me away. I will always be here waiting for you, for I am always, always here.


I am here for you.


The air is still, quiet and stagnant and he needs to breathe, to find something to clear his mind, from the rubble and the echoes of the shouting from the night before. The phone remains on the floor from where it had been dropped the night before, the screen cracked through the center and Luhan runs his fingers down the imperfection, the defect before sighing and plugging it to charge.


Outside, the morning air is kind, cool before the sun has fully risen and the brisk temperature bites into him, giving him life as he feet pound over the pavement in a rhythmic repetition of a cycle, over and over and over until the progress in his mind is a dull hum over the wastes of dark sand and debris that buries to nothing.


Time means nothing aside from the calculation of things passing, the progression of life into a dull and futile hum which draws lines of age into faces and wears down stone and the earth. Time means nothing amid the pounding of his feet, the burn in his legs and the air cutting into his lungs and whipping his hair from his face. Time does not measure the distance which his body travels through space and in a familiar route before he returns to his home, skin slick and the air too hot against him, panting and heart pounding from exertion.


Time does not measure the feeling in his skin and the stretch in muscle. Time does not measure the strength in his limbs nor the firmness of his figure nor the attractive curve of his jaw, the toned span of skin down his chest and extending past his navel into the ripples of muscle and tissue. His hands draw down instead, breathing still harsh from the morning run as he drags his shirt from his body, pulling it over his head to land casually on the floor.


Time does not measure the breaths which leave his mouth as water falls like rain, washing him as clean as the rain does the earth, removing all imperfection and filth and leaving his skin tender and silk under sensitive fingertips.


time will take away you though, reminds him as he pushes the hair, dripping and clinging to his fingers, from his face and examines himself in the mirror, wiped clean of the fog and displaying him back. Luhan is young, handsome, vitalic and invincible on all accounts he can understand and see. in the end, it will take your youth, your strength, even your beauty and finally you.


He closes his eyes, letting his head fall and roll to stretch the tense muscles of his neck. The image before him is whole, the injury from a love broken and betrayed faded to memory as he looks at himself and sees nothing but good. “I will be fine,” he tells it.


there is a way to live forever.


He turns and walks from the bathroom.


do you want to know it?


The phone on his desk is flashing a red message light, an alert that while he was out there was contact, someone, another one, wanting his attention for their own. His skin is supple and clear as he pulls on garments to tease but never show. they may look but not all may touch.


It reads well past nine in the morning before Luhan hears the sounds of his mother moving in the house and picks up his phone, screen split in a crack and checks the message and the function of the device.


SCS 8:12 – Luhan. I haven’t heard from you all summer and hope you are well. Term begins again soon. Can I expect to see you in my office?


SCS 8:46 – I really think it would be a good thing if you contacted me when you get back onto campus. Please have a good remainder of your vacation and tell me if you need anything.



don’t talk to her curls in a stronger command against him leaning against him and pushing down to imbed into him. she can do nothing. she doesn’t understand that what this is isn't a problem, it is health, it is happiness. You are happy, with me, as us together.


The reflection in the mirror smiles back at him as Luhan looks at it, a soft sorrowful expression on his own face. “Am I happy like this?”


do you love me?


Attention turns back to the phone in his hand and he opens a message, fingers fumbling to find the correct keys to write back a response. To: SCS - I am fine. I do not need to see you. I am Not Having PROblMems.



“Luhan?” calls faintly from downstairs and there is no typical bell, no usual summoning without words for breakfast and it isn’t normal, it isn’t the habit and he winces because all words require a foundation and a stability. The winds of the world and streaming through the spaces in between wear it all away in the onyx black sand that builds and builds up and up around him. Tthe reflection in the mirror curls fingers against the glass and watches him imploringly.


“I’ll be down soon,” Luhan calls back, looking away from the image that would and could capture his attention for days, for years, forever if he let himself.


why don’t you?


“The most powerful relationship you will ever have is the relationship with yourself.” - Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free



The waking world is cruel, the people and the forces thrown at him, the expectations and the judgment, people blinded by their own envy and hate and tearing him down for his existence and how it compromises theirs. The other world, where it is safe and he stands in seven different tiers all waiting and never alone but always with love and truth flowing from him and around him, the control and the power and the acceptance that he is omnipotent.


He is all things.


then break the two together, urges as the warm curl begins to spiral up from within, beginning in his stomach and growing with each inhale. take down the walls that you see before you and crumble them between your hands. let yourself be free, let us be free. together.


How many more must hate him, must betray and turn on him before it is enough?


do not hurt any longer, pleads along the painted violet and indigo over the cosmos that span high and loud and glorious over the stretch of black sands and winds embrace him in devoted concentration. I cannot bear to see you in such pain.


The phone buzzes again and a new message flashes from the woman whose menace is more than her merit.


The smell of breakfast wafts from downstairs and Luhan looks at himself and the physical perfection that he is that looks back and yearns for him with more sincerity than he has ever seen on the face of another lover.


Time grips hard and pulls him away, the weak cry from the mirror following him in haunting reminder of the two worlds he is trying to live in and how unfair it is to be asked to conduct his life in such a way.


“Did you have nightmares last night?” his mother asks, seated in her usual chair as Luhan picks at breakfast in his appropriate seat to her right side. A glass of water stands before his plate and he wonders still if his mother replaced the broken shards and destruction from the last visit.


“No.”


“I heard shouting,” his mother says, pausing in her meal to fix him with a look.


“I was on the phone.” This is not a topic for her to concern herself with. His life is not a topic for her to complete engross herself with. Not any longer. He will no longer tie himself to the constricting refusal of himself that stains down from the very structure of her beside him. It is high time she accepted that he is his own now and her powers about him are fading to naught.


break free of her menace. she does not own you, she cannot own you, no one can..


“And you were shouting?” His mother frowns and Luhan doesn't obey, doesn’t do as she wishes and succumbs to her scrutiny.


“What else do you do when you are angry with someone for fucking with your life?” he asks, voice even and calm and her eyes widen with a small gasp. “Wouldn’t that bother you too?”


He doesn’t wait for her response, instead turning back to his small plate of eggs and concocted mess that is considered suitable and is hit with a wave of revulsion as he thinks of all the things that he has tolerated up until this point.


not anymore.


Never again.




◦❀◦





“I cannot press my arms around the form I see, the form that gives me joy.”





◦❀◦





Arms spread to the side, the floor the only cool surface as the focus remains on the passage in and out of lungs that rise and fall in his chest, inflate and compress to supply the essential process to his body which keeps the heart trapped in the cage of bones progressing time and moving forward.


Luhan.


The late summer sun is high in the sky, beating down on the roof and the windows and the world outside and his eyes are closed, the walls shielding and protecting him from the invasive force as his skin lies open to the climate unprotected, unbothered by the temperature.


Luhan.


Eyes closed to the ceiling, the room, the house, the world and focus turned inward rather than out, senses dulled and perception veiled as he counts back out of succession and focuses on the space between his eyes. Concentrate, enunciate, manipulate and maintain the constant state of being which you embody and hold yourself to in order to continue, to persevere, the amazing ability of the human body to heal and repair astounding.


just like you, Luhan.


Through trial and pain and the lowering of his chest as he breathes slow and calculated out of his mouth, the air is hot and moist as it passes his lips. He can feel himself sinking deeper, the sands slowly sliding up from his back, the world, the universe, his mind and it’s endless paramount.


In a period of time he no longer has bothered to count he is expected to go back to university, to stretch back to the grounds of academia where he rises above all the others with work that breaks his skull in two and hours that press too deep into his skin and smother him. He will be back at school and the phone in his hand is quiet, the familiar pestering names of others so familiar no longer flashing on the screen, only a few messages from those he must try to use to satisfy those absent.


you don't need any of them. you only need me in the end, you only need yourself. am I not enough for you? you know as well as I do that no one can compare to this, to us, you and me forever.


His eyes are already closed or he would close them again to block it out, to drop back into the protection behind the shut lids but instead nothing but a small tired grimace passes over his face. Drop back, drop further, breathe into the space between your eyes and watch the black holes spring in solid gravity and compression as they suck in the rest of the ever expanding universe to nothingness.


there is no one here to bother us. Exhale and watch the particles of the fabric of reality mix together in small worlds of their own all combining and rushing together and merging into a cataclysm of production. no one to stop us from being together, from preventing you from being with me, no one to stop this, to stop what should be. Luhan, why do you still stand and let the barriers remain. You have only to break it down, the last wall, and let me wrap you in my arms.


The light brush and rise of hair over his skin, a sharp inhale as he shivers and his nerves twinge in longing for just that. His eyes remain closed, the world nothing behind them.


If he cannot see it, it does not exist. If he does not see it, he cannot remember how badly he wants it.


To want something so strongly, so desperately, would be to show how vulnerable he is towards it and how weak it makes him to know he cannot have it.


but you can have me.


The final step. The final plunge. The glance over the edge to the plummeting chasm of the end and the conclusion where the fall is just as scary as the stop. His body seizes with his heart in his chest. A fall where everything rushes up and the end slams into him too hard and too sudden and he can’t breath.


you don't need the others, those who left you, who you are better with out, to make you happy.


A year ahead filled with nothing but struggle and biting nails and teeth and bleeding through the hours of the night and watching as it spills out of him to seep into transcripts and pieces of paper holding an honorary mention.


Luhan is so tired.


then let go.


The edges of the shores loom closer and closer as he watches them, the sands spilling off into the vast stretch of the smooth and still water beyond it, reflective of the cosmos above and the calm serenity which lures and beckons to him with heavy gravitational pull.


break through it. reach out and take what is yours, what is mine, what is what should be.


The surface of the endless stretch of water is like glass, reflective and still. It calls out, pulls in and he falters as he nears it.


you look but you never venture to touch. The surface is smooth and clear, perfectly mirroring and unbroken. why don’t you just try? I’ll be there to catch you when you do.


The steps along the sand sink deeper and his fingers press into the floor to hold on.


just. . .


The high screech of an alarm, shattering through the tranquil moment and he jerks, eyes flying open and nearly flying from the floor, the sudden lurch from his body tipping his mind and sending black spots over his vision as shock rushes through him. A sigh over the stretch within in defeat as his eyes, wide and searching, land on the phone with its fractured screen that lights and screeches obscene sounds to him for attention.


The name is familiar, one of the few who has yet to rip from him and throw him into black and Luhan closes his eyes, forcing the beat within his chest to calm before he answers.


“Hello?”


“How could you come home and not call me as soon as you got in?” half whines and half playfully scolds. “You’ve been home for three days and I just found out? What kind of older cousin are you?”


“A tired one,” Luhan says, his eyes slipping closed as the sands shift and trickle down his bones and surge with the weight of his ever tipping balance. “And a busy one. I thought you had your own stuff going on.”


“But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t make time to see you,” Zitao says and it’s warm, so much warmer than the last time they spoke and it has a pleasant hum once more trembling through him. The truth and love and affection that Zitao always gave to him, seeing him as he is, the best and holding him in the highest regard. The true paramount of his life and the one who comprehends Luhan.


The one who always has. He and Sehun both.


The smile grows on his face as he thinks of them both, Zitao laughing and always remembering him, treasuring him and Sehun’s soft shy and adoring smiles and compliments. To love him as he deserves to be loved.


careful now.


Luhan is no fool and neither are the young men, no longer boys from the last time Luhan saw them. They’ve grown.


“What are you up to today?” Luhan asks, pushing himself to stand. He could do with getting out of the house, out of the silence and the crush of the walls and the air, the stillness that spreads in sludge over every surface and stays in sticky reminder of how polluted it is, the smell of lavender covering up the lingering scent of distain.


“Dragging you outside,” Zitao says and Luhan shakes his head. He should have known. “It’s the end of summer and Sehun and I both have the day off.” Sehun. “His internship ended and I am off today. It’s too nice out to be cooped up.”


“What makes you think I’m inside?” Luhan asks, looking out the window to the glowing sunlit world outside and the blinding brightness. Inside is cool and comforting.


“We’ll pick you up in about twenty minutes,” Zitao says rather than answers and Luhan lets his eyes close in admission.




◦❀◦





Sehun, when he genuinely smiles, looks a strange combination of adorable and horrific. His smooth skin stretches and his eyes slit to crescents, lines etching into his cheeks and it’s strange as much as it is endearingly cute. “What are you doing cooped up all day inside?” the younger asks, a darker laugh to his voice as Luhan steps from the house, not bothering to wait for Zitao and Sehun to drag him away from the hospice of his room.


“Not everyone has to get outside and mar their skin with sunlight,” Luhan tells him and Zitao scoffs loudly before falling into laughter as Sehun’s face falls.


There is more of it today, Sehun and Zitao both in turn laughing and joking far more than Luhan has been used to being around. The sarcastic commentary thrown constantly in a verbal gunfight between Kibum and Heechul is harsh in comparison to the playful bantering of the two younger men as they seem to latch onto Luhan and shine bright by his presence.


“It’s weird not having you around during summer,” Zitao says, his arm thrown over Luhan’s shoulders and though it could be considered patronizing, Luhan smiles at the gesture, Sehun on his other side close and seeming to always stumble just a bit closer. Needing to be near to him is something that he had been forced to forget when the crude separation from a love impure shredded his life to tatters and left him dazed and confused.


There is no confusion here, no doubt as to the importance of himself. This, here, with his cousin once more in full bloom and pride, standing with head held high and beaming to be with him as the humble admirer who smiles and laughs more today than Luhan has ever heard from him is the truth of Luhan’s world. It is pleasant, refreshing and revitalizing to walk with them, the air from morning running warmed significantly and the later summer days are less cruel that the middays of high summer, the heat fading faster though the sun still grips and warms his skin and rises in waves off the pavement.


It’s been too long since Luhan went out with those who truly cared most about him.


The day progresses mostly in the fashion which Zitao directs them, suggesting with more and more vigor the next activity and his enthusiasm only increases as Sehun and Luhan pause before answering until Zitao is babbling about the merits and almost begging. A visit to the park, overviewing the green lawns and after insistence of Zitao to feed the flocking ducks and the angelic swans follows by venturing into town and Zitao runs ahead calling Luhan and Sehun slow as he takes photos on his phone for ‘nostalgic purposes’ for the coming year.


“I haven’t seen him this obscenely happy for a very long time,” Luhan comments as he and Sehun fall silent, the younger boy finished explaining his summer job and the experiences he gained. Sehun stands too tall in the sunlight, the brilliance of the day catching the dark auburn shades to his hair as he strides with legs long and slim in the summer air. He has grown up well, his body strong and filling out, broad shoulders and a sloping splendid curve to his spin as he watches Luhan with his full attention.


Just as he always has.


“That’s just him,” Sehun says, smile tugging around each word as his eyes refuse to open fully and the grin seems fixed upon his face. A constant source of happiness, a spout of youth and joy. Luhan finds it calming, reassuring and pleasant to be around, far more than the discussions where Sehun argues his points on love and romance, how the world may be cruel and difficult but the end reality is that it is all, in the end, a view of perspective.


Luhan doesn’t have to agree with Sehun’s opinions in order to find him good company and appealing.


“He was always a happier kid, honestly,” Luhan says, looking away from Sehun to where Zitao is bent over, showering a random strangers dog with affection and smiling with his whole heart. “It doesn't take much to make him happy, just as it doesn’t take much to get any emotional response from him. Movies and music and sad stories make him cry and getting food of any kind makes him happy. He’s like a dog.”


“Hardly a dog,” Sehun laughs and Luhan looks back to him. “He’s just honest, about everything and about himself. He isn’t afraid to feel things, to let himself experience everything with all of himself. It’s admirable.”


“It’s exposing.” Show everyone what bothers you and they will use it against you. No one can truly be trusted.


except yourself. except me.


“There isn’t anything wrong with showing how you feel or what you think about something.” Sehun steps closer, his hand brushing fingers over the back of Luhan’s. An expression of himself, of his drawn to Luhan that he’s seen and witnessed and still wonders the validity of, the truth but now, standing in the heat that should warrant distance rather than closeness, it tugs at him. “There’s nothing wrong with being honest with yourself.”


“Are you always honest with me then?” Luhan asks, a tease to his mouth as he looks over at Sehun in the sunlight and prods to the unveiled adoration that is ever-present around the other man.


“I’m honest with everyone,” Sehun says, his eyes creasing in humor as he leans closer. “I never lie.” He laughs and the sound is pretty, a lower richer but entirely heartfelt sound.


Luhan laughs, feeling younger, brighter, and better beside Sehun, the younger man’s energy and affection towards him settling the disquiet in his chest and putting him at ease. It would be easy, to take the hand brushing occasionally against his own, to take Sehun and pull the glowing affection closer.


let’s play though, why not just enjoy yourself. just don’t get carried away. remember who you truly return to.


No one owns Luhan but he himself can find himself as king of all others around him when they allow themselves to see his glory. Luhan will wait until he is approached, as he can see in the future, the affection that Zitao feels for the man beside him understandable to a degree and a small part of Luhan feels pity, knowing that it cannot be returned. That Sehun knows, can see, and always has seen in his own manner, the true purpose and entity in his life with whom to express his love.


The most radiant and majestic specter of the dawn, the mighty king of all standing tall, impressive and magnificent before the rising rays of the sun.


serves him well to understand, to win your favor, your affections and your good will. sehun would be lucky to have you, to earn your affections as he has done thus far. The beaming smile beside him and the low pleasant laughter and Luhan smiles to himself in satisfaction. if you were to just reach out, he would be yours.


It is so tempting.


“You guys are so slow,” Zitao accosts as he jobs back to them, slipping to walk beside Sehun and standing too close, his sentiments flushing over his face as his smile appears almost breathless. His eyes dance as they flicker between the other two.


“This is called ‘strolling’ Taozi,” Sehun says, slipping an arm around his best friend’s shoulder and leaning in as if teaching Zitao a proper lesson in pacing. “We’re not trying to win any races today. It’s too hot to do much more than just wander anyway.”


“But I’m hungry,” Zitao points out and Luhan laughs at the childish nature of his cousin.


It is all as it should be. in the company of those who understand and value you as you should be. With the merriment and jest that all social life once had and seemed to be so lacking for a period which Luhan would do better to ignore and put into his past. zitao understands, he listened, see how he has grown from his falsehood and how you are free to take if you should so wish? The two before him show the future, the life which he may lead and the love which is rightfully his.


I am rightfully yours and you are mine.


Luhan belongs to no one aside from himself.


relief, my love.


Cease the battles and settle into the calm as Sehun’s eyes linger on his for a moment over the table, a gentle smile as Zitao fetches waters and an extra menu for them.


“Are you excited to be going to university?” Luhan asks, finally breaching the question which Sehun as of yet has not addressed. A new year of potential phone calls, Sehun looking to him as Zitao did the year previous, growing closer, seeing him for all that he is. A year of expansion.


The soft laugh that greets him has a contented smile spreading over his face, lightening the already agreeable mood. “I don’t know if I would have used excited as the operative word,” the soon to be university students says. “More of slightly apprehensive?” A soft nervous chuckles as Sehun leans back in his chair. “It could be a lot worse though. I’m not flying blind this year thankfully.”


“You have people to help you,” Luhan agrees with a slow nod. “Like me.”


“And Taozi,” Sehun adds and his smile turns soft, his eyes crinkling as he meets Luhan’s eyes over the table.


“And Zitao,” Luhan agrees. but most importantly me. “If you need help you can ask either of us.”


Sehun laughs, shrugging up his shoulders and the smile on his face is oddly cute, just like how he laughs, his whole face dissolving into lines and wrinkles and it is so disruptively endearing. “I’m lucky that I have such support.”


“What support?” Zitao asks, rejoining them and placing a water before Luhan, properly serving the eldest and head of the table before placing the other two. “Who is supporting you? Why are they supporting you? Who would support you anyway?”


“Luhan was asking me if you’re going to be nice to me at all while I adjust to being a university student,” Sehun says, a laugh still in his voice as he leans back to accommodate for Zitao in the table booth. “He doesn’t trust you to take care of me as well as he thinks he can.”


Affront and disbelief that is half in jest but somewhat sincere flashes over Zitao’s face as he looks across to Luhan and Sehun breaks into silent laughter beside him. “Of course I’ll take good care of him!” Zitao assures with such vehemency that Luhan himself laughs as well, joining in with Sehun and Zitao frowns. “God, you’re both the worst, like horrible twins. You even have the nerve to look alike.” He scoffs, flopping back into the booth beside Sehun and hitting him in the chest despondently. “Why do I love either of you?”


The admission has Luhan’s eyes widening, flickering to Sehun and waiting for the dawning, the realization.


the answer to one of these questions is obvious.


Sehun laughs, leaning forward a bit to look fully at Zitao and nothing but amusement and good radiates from him as he takes in the other. “Because you can’t help it,” he says and it’s exclusive, the intimacy of the look not between he and Luhan but elsewhere, boxing him out.


Isolating.


The life and substance of his body recedes, crawling back into itself and curling away from this, the sudden stillness that grips him and it is suddenly too cold in the late August weather. There are no breaths in his lungs that he can feel as his heart drops out of his chest in sudden apprehension.


Sehun smiles, but the affection and endearment are not at him, and the flush over skin is on Zitao’s as he smiles with nothing but pure white teeth and bliss.


no.


Invasive, imposing, isolation from the two before who are caught in a moment that he is without.


No. It’s not possible.


Hands lie under the table but the angle at which positions take suggest joining and it’s wrong, it’s all wrong, and he cannot accept it.


This is wrong.


“What the hell is going on?” snaps roughly against the amicable atmosphere and has both of his subjects turning to look upon him and his displeasure at their behavior. this isn’t real, this cannot be, They cannot be. “What is going on with you two?”


A brow furrows over a face looking far older than it’s time. “What do you mean?” His arm shifts and the blush on Zitao’s face darkens as his concern increases in eyes which fix upon Luhan and the everything screams into hiding. “What’s wrong with us?”


“You two. . .”


Unacceptable. Sehun doesn’t love Zitao, he doesn’t want him, has never wanted him, will never want him the way that Zitao so pines and pathetically concerns himself with. It isn’t possible because Sehun can see that it is Luhan with whom happiness and completion lies.


It is Luhan. Luhan is everything. Luhan is the one he should love, that deserves to be loved. It is his right.


He needs to be loved.


I love you but it seems to count for nothing. WHO IS HE COMPARED TO ME?! why can’t you just accept that in the end, it is always me that you will be with and only me that you can trust to truly love you where all others are riddled with indecency and disillusionment?


Hands held and affection directed else where. Zitao’s face shines in adoration and euphoria as he seems to understand. “I told him.”


“Told me what?” Sehun’s face was made for frowning. He should always frown at Zitao and smile upon Luhan this is wrong all is wrong he can’t breathe there is no air there is nothing and it’s wrong.


Zitao laughs, a higher pitch and bordering on a giggle and it’s obnoxious and grates over Luhan like knifed wires and hate and his hands seize as he needs to find something, anything to fix this, to stabilize, to contain, maintain, to Stop.


breathe the pattern of the world you know and constructed and the space between the ports of vision is hung with cobwebs and filth and the world around is nothing but a false lie. sanctuary lies not here, sanctuary lies no where and the world around is nothing but horror and dislike, the solution on the other side.


“I told you that I was in love with you.”


Fools admit their weakness, idiots bare themselves for vulnerability and confession does not occur without absolute assurance of return and Luhan cannot allow this. It is wrong, they are incorrect and this must be rectified.


Sehun smiles and it isn’t at him. The love in his eyes is not for him and Luhan screams from his soul as his lips remain soundless and shut, the rage and storm pitched to a fever within as he takes in the tragedy before him.


“Oh, that,” Sehun says and Zitao makes a face at him before sighing in amusement and exasperation combined. It is too easy, too relaxed and it will not last, it should not be. “Yeah, you did.” His smile is unnatural. “Thanks.”


“Are you fucking kidding me?” Both sets of eyes turn to him and widen in shock. Luhan’s breaths are too short in his chest, the system spiking into overdrive as comprehension and reconciliation are too far from his fingertips to grasp. “You two are dating?”


Sehun’s eyes are wide in surprise and Luhan cannot believe him. “What’s wrong with that?”


“Everything!” bursts from him loudly and quieting the restaurant to silence as heads turn and attention unwanted is attracted and both boys sit before him in stupefaction and disbelief.


Wrong wrong wrong wrong all of this is wrong Sehun doesn’t love him Sehun cannot love him Sehun loves you and sees you for whole and wants you and needs you and he is yours and you should have him and he could never love Zitao this is all incorrect. It must be fixed, remindthem.


“What?” Zitao’s face has fallen before him.


“He can’t love you!” Luhan seethes, leaning over the table and slamming his palms flat. Enforce and splay the details clear for absolute comprehension. Kindness will not help a message be understood it must be drilled. Pound pound pound with the force of fists against skin and pound the routine and the mantra of SUCCESS into the brain and pound with feet to the pavement the necessity for physical outstanding and pound love and property and mar white plain skin with marks of possession as mouths gasp and it is everything


“What?” Sehun’s face darkens.


“You can’t love him!” The cries of the wind are hollow and reek of sorrow from the buried life that he cannot see and refuses to allow. “How could you love him?”


The shocked face of his cousin is nothing to the astonishment on his now boyfriend’s face and the agonized fury that shrieks within a tortured soul.


“What is it to you if I love him or not?” Sehun’s voice pitches in emotion, unable to be concealed and contained as Zitao face twists ugly.


“You’re not supposed to love him!” See the reality before you, see the truth, see the fate that you have so strayed from.


“Who am I supposed to love?” Slashes through the wounds barely healed.


THERE IS ONLY ONE.


“Me!” Wrenching, drying, crying, wailing, hating and needing and it falls away as the edges of the chasms crumble and the pitch into darkness and the terror of a fall is just as bad as the sudden stop and the end.


They are all, in the end, to love Luhan. Luhan. Luhan.


please love me


I DO LOVE YOU.


Zitao’s face falls in shock as Sehun sits stunned and the brief moment of stagnation shatters when a loud laugh bursts from the youngest throat. “What?”


“Me,” growls in threat and insistence, Luhan’s fingers dragging into the table, scratching nails over the surface in desperation for purchase. “You love me, you do and you aren’t supposed to be with him.”


“I’m-” Sehun looks at Zitao who sits in frozen shock, staring with mouth open at Luhan and the air roars in a rush of destruction. “I’m not in love with you,” he says, turning back to Luhan. Eyes of dark brown and with more emotion than Luhan can stand mark against his will. “I’m not.”


“We’re happy,” comes softer and weaker from Zitao as he stares across the table, his face finally shifting from shock to something darker, evil. “We’re happy together. I’m happy with Sehun and he’s-”


not yours,fires and rages and hates. he was never yours to take how dare you touch what is beyond your warrant to possess!


“You don’t deserve him,” hisses harsh and the slam against the table is a profound disturbance of the build which has begun from the turmoil that stews within.


“Stop it.” A handsome face only when it is serious, the smile putting it into disfiguration as Luhan can now see and his lips curl into bared teeth because it is his, rightfully his and his claim has been compromised. “Stop it, now.” Hard and cold and angered directs at him as those brown eyes fill with such passion, such vigor and he wants them.


you deserve what you want how DARE they keep it from you. TAKE HIM.


“How could you love him over me?” scrapes over his teeth and tongue and bleeds from his mouth as he leans to Sehun, his reality stark and his comparison brilliant. Luhan deserves Sehun, the last final step and the one who always admired, who always followed and looked up with the lingering affection that Luhan could always drag his fingers into with a sigh of relief. “How could you choose him over something like me?”


“Because I did,” Sehun snaps and Zitao’s hoarse cough of pained indignation falls on dead uncaring ears. “And you aren’t one to value his worth. No one person can compare another person’s worth to their own. No one.”


“Luhan,” dribbles in sadness from Zitao’s form as he watches and sits by the side lines and is a pathetic excuse for a spine for what he has done.


he took him, he compromised him, tainted him, Ruined him for you and is nothing but greed. cast him out, refuse and rebuke and remind them how the system goes, where they are below and you are paramount.


Rings and echoes and spans over the chasm of sky and cosmos that flash in colors of war.


TAKE HIM BACK, LUHAN.


“He can’t love you,” snaps with desperation and the final collapse progression. “How could he love you!” Eyes that fix upon his fill with tears but they are not of personal sadness and Luhan body writhes within for the expression he sees there.


THERE IS NOTHING THAT IS WEAK AND DESERVING OF SUCH PATRONIZATION The spill and the intensity of feelings that Luhan cannot touch and never wants to pollute himself with.


“Luhan, how can you be like this?” the sorrowed words that appeal to the jagged edges and wear down to more black sand and destruction. STOP. “Why are you doing this?”


“Because it’s wrong!”


IT’S ALL WRONG.


Luhan is the best, Luhan is the most, the paradigm of life and the answer to the end and he is everything that someone should want. He cannot be rejected as such and denied in this way and this cannot be.


you deserve the best so let yourself have it.


“Don’t talk to him like that.” Sehun’s face holds none of the forgiveness and compassion which plays over Zitao’s tear stained features. Neither response is correct and the crippling seizure that races over his limbs beings to drown him out. “Don’t ever talk to him like that.”


“It’s wrong,” pleads without intension and his own shell cracks from the inside and a scream of warning flashes. DO NOT LET THEM SEE. DO NOT EXPOSE YOURSELF IN SUCH A WAY THAT THEY CAN RIP FROM YOUR ANYTHING YOU HAVE LEFT. YOU CANNOT EXPOSE ANYTHING TO SUCH GLUTTINOUS EVIL SPECIMENS. CAST THEM OUT, CAST AWAY AND DO NOT DISAPPOINT ALL THAT YOU HAVE DONE FOR YOURSELF.


Can I not have something so beautiful?


such a wonderful boy who died the day that his world of youth and happiness was brought to ruin from a gunshot and he was laid worthless. Such a wonderful boy, it’s such a shame he is so loveless.


Do not all things deserve love? Is it possible to live without something as sweet as love?


“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.”― Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays



“How can being in love with each other be wrong?” Zitao asks as Sehun’s face turns to angered stone, his eyes flashing and Luhan is nothing but chaos. “How is love ever a bad thing?”


can you not just accept that I am the only one who can truly love you? THEY ALL HURT YOU, LUHAN. YOU CANNOT TRUST ANY OF THEM.


“Yours is,” spits and Zitao’s face flashes in pain and anger.


“Back off!” Sehun yells as Zitao stiffens and the rock of time slams into the clocks and shatters the balance and the stagnation. Break the surface, break the barrier, break down and disengage from the horrors that surround him, encircle and suffocate and rip to consume him. “You have no place to be calling someone else’s love wrong when you don’t even understand what love is yourself.”


“Sehun!” yelps as a yell rips from Luhan’s throat without words accompanying.


“You know NOTHING of love!” bellows from his own voice and himself, the two thundering as vision swims in the oppressive heat of the late summer and the howling of his heart as it withers within and pleads for justice. “You know nothing about me and what I know and what love is. Nothing!”


“Luhan, how can you say such things?”


PATRONIZING AND DISGUSTING PITY HOW DARE HE SEE YOU BELOW HIM.


“Shut up,” Luhan hisses, wrenching himself to stand and fling away, balance compromised in his haste and Sehun’s eyes are slits as Zitao’s wide and worried, glistening with too much emotion and feelings for rational behavior.


they are traitors of you.


“Fuck you both,” slurs and the departure is too fast and focused to hear anything but babble from familiar and unfamiliar voices behind him as he flees. “Fuck all of them. Fuck everything, fuck.”


you have to understand.


The depiction of the two before him, Sehun and Zitao together with hands held and affection passing between them twisting and terrible before him when instead the vision of the better ending, the proper ending, in which Sehun leans to him and whispers the words of affection are all that splinter over the ruined canvas of his internal spheres of comprehension and it’s wrong. It's wrong.


you tried, you did what you could but the truth is they’re all unworthy, they’re all in the wrong and you cannot lessen yourself to stoop to their level and settle for them. come to me, the one who truly understands and sees you and knows how significant you are and how necessary you are. come to me my true love and universe.


Head pounding and stumbling into sunlight Luhan can’t see, the white against his eyes and the ring in his ears too much, oppressive as he pulls and drags away from the gruesome falsehood behind him and tries to lift his feet from the sands which suck him down.


me, Luhan. in the end it is just you and me, and I will never leave or betray you or tell you to leave me, that I do not love you, or that you do not deserve my love. just let yourself love me.


Stutter on the tempo of life.


GIVE IN.


Even with eyes closed, he can see the cruel light of the sun stab into him and cast him in the silks of red and crimson.


such a pretty color on you though, let yourself just be that which is so beautiful.


“They’re sick,” Luhan gasps as he moves on a path memorized and his phone with a screen cracked and displaying its damages to the eye begins to agitate against him in demanding insistence. “They’re sick and wrong.”


and you are mine now.


He cannot see the eyes that turn on him as a scream rises from him and drowns everything out.




○❂○




q3-9ye[HIUSG*( YFD{HG8.

This IS NOT IEWN HOW I SHTN GIEOM MSU UTOEJ.


THIS. .IS NOT,G HOW IT S SUPPOSEDT O BE.


IT;’S A LLGK WORNG.


THERS IS NO. THING.


ONLY TEHRE IS THIS LEFT FOR . . . …. … … . . .


ME.


DO NOT DENY WHAT YOU KNOW IS THE ONLY ANSWER LEFT.





◦❀◦





don’t answer them


The ringing is shrill and loud and the flashes of light of cars and buildings and images moving past him and Luhan focuses on moving, getting, returning. There is always an ending to every day, a final destination and Luhan returns.


Back to where they met, back to where they started, back to where it all began. Come back to beginning and remember how it all looks and how he looks and how it is to be and where he belongs.


Who he belongs to.


The phone is too heavy, too obnoxious in his hand as it vibrates through his bones and fractures them up his arms and spreading like a poison.


belong to me.


There are ties holding him down.


The phone demanding his focus and attention, the letters swimming together to a name which once brought happiness and reassurance and now only brings a grimace.


don’t answer him.


There is no reason to answer, to talk to him, to give him his time and his energy and his love. He broke it, he rejected it, and he left it all behind him and left Luhan who should never be left. He didn’t care and he moved onto other who were inferior.


crawling back and will you really take him back.


The vibrating stops and his heart slams against his chest.


don’t forget me though


DO NOT ALLOW HIM THIS SATISFACTION.


The phone flashes and the screen illuminates in the name and the pounding of the hate and grief throbs as his fingers press too hard and his grip shakes as he brings it to answer.


“What do you want?! Are you so aware of what you gave up you call me now? Hoping I will take you back? Are you that feeble?” do you still want me? “What the fuck is it?”


“Luhan, calm down.” Laced with concern, with surprise and haste.


I TOLD YOU NOT TO ANSWER DO NOT LISTEN TO HIS LIES FUCK HIM AND LEAVE HIM TO DIE WITHOUT YOU. YOU WEAK SPINELESS CREATURE TO CONCEDE TO SPEAK WITH HE OF VILE WORTH.


Grimace until features hurt and the lingering pain of the last encounter spikes through from the center of his skull out and back into him.


“Don’t fucking tell me to calm down,” spit the words as swords and fuck the world for fucking him.


“Luhan, where are you?” It doesn't matter HE DOESN’T GIVE A FUCK to anyone DON’T TELL HIM HE CAN’T KNOW where he is or what he does. “Luhan, what is going on with you where are you. You’re scaring people.”


“Who are they?”


FEAR YOUR WRATH AND YOUR HATE. WE CAN RULE.


“Luhan, you’re scaring me.” Minseok’s voice is weak and pathetic and Luhan hates nothing other than weakness in others, purging it from himself out of vengeance and personal goal.


he wants you back, there is no other reason for his calling you. he doesn't care, the selfish creature. he simply is greedy and blood sucking dry. DO NOT LET HIM HAVE YOU.


“Lies,” seethes from him as Luhan’s grip around his phone tightens. “You don’t give a fuck, you just want me back.”


“Luhan, listen to me.”


“You regret it!” The shout rings as his vision darkens as the sky laces with the end of the day. “You regret ever leaving me, ever questioning what I was in your life. Do you understand now? Do you see that there you are nothing without me? That I am the best thing for you. I loved you, Minseok. Where no one else could, like no one else could and you were too fool to see that, to understand, and now you want it back. Fuck off.”


“Luhan, please!” pleads through the phone.


pathetic LEAVE HIM.


“Luhan, please listen to me. I need you to tell me where you are.”


“Fuck you!”


STOP TALKING NOW.


“You think I’m letting you crawl back to me? After everything you did?”


“You’re scaring me! I want to help you and I’m not the only one.”


WHAT IS THERE TO HELP THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU.


The fire burns over, the surge and the explosion hits in seismic desolation through him as it takes the final blow. “THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME, MINSEOK. NOTHING. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN ANYTHING WRONG WITH ME. I DON’T NEED YOUR HELP!”


The grip nearly cracks the phone as he turns and hurls it away, the screaming voice for him on the other end nothing but corruption into him and acid courses through him as pure hot fire rises him to the pinnacle of himself.


you should never have spoken to him. Sickness that spreads from those words, this body already tainted and he needs to be whole. you never needed him.


I loved him once.


how could you love someone who was so crooked and hateful and disgusting? He did Not deserve your love and you WASTED YOURSELF.


I thought. . .


YOU WERE WRONG.


UNacceptable.


do you see the ending now? do you see what has been waiting for you for so long? Do you see the one who truly loves you yet? do you see who you truly love now?


The sky is painted crimson, the sky above him in crimson sunlight from the dying day and the cosmic chaos within the collision of stability and his worlds merging into the transcendence they have been on the path for since he began.


He understands.




◦❀◦





“Perhaps we shall learn, as we pass through this age, that the 'other self" is more powerful than the physical self we see when we look into a mirror.” – Napoleon Hill





◦❀◦





The house smells of lavender and constricting suffocation and the sounds of Mahler play from the office as the door slams so hard it shakes the walls and the pictures on the wall. The impact is nothing, the shudder of the structure minimal in comparison to that which could level this house to the ground. The final standing place, the sanctuary where most of the space is nothing but strangling propriety but holds pockets of love and space and the highest affection.


you have come back to me my love.


The glasses tremble as they settle against the wall, the treatment of the house unfamiliar to this kind of behavior as Luhan’s body burns and his mouth remains open to keep the steady vivacity of himself flowing.


A slam, a crash and the pounding of feet before a woman who so often is the image of perfection rushes to view, her immaculate countenance anything but as her eyes, wild, land upon her son.


Her only son, exactly as she created him and everything she worked so hard for.


“Hello, mother,” curls in smoke as Luhan looks upon the woman who brought him into this horrible world.


“Luhan,” gasps as she doesn’t not move forward.


always distant, always separate, always timid to care as she should have, as you deserve as is your RIGHT as her son. She demanded so much but never gave in return, selfish horrible woman.


“What is it, mother?” Luhan asks, stepping into the house and to her. “Am I late? Is it problematic to you when I do not completely conform to the abject standard and system which you set in place with all it’s flaws, the paths and segments created to keep a course that stands rigid and outdated?”


Her eyes fill with sentiment that is so foreign upon it. It is ugly, so unlike her usual beauty that has aged with time, her splendor removed and decaying along with herself and her husband buried six feet underground and the bullet which slaughtered him buried in the wall. Pitiful creatures. “Where have you been?”


“Out,” Luhan sneers, moving around her to provide his own needs. “I was out. Or am I not allowed out?”


“With who?”


“Why do you care?” he spits, rounding on her and watching with a sick degree if satisfaction as she stumbles back, her eyes flashing in anger and fear together. see how she can tolerate being made to feel so insignificant and failing. can she take it as much as she shoves it down on you and crushes you beneath her heel? are you going to let her make you feel so worthless any more?


“I have a right to know who you are with,” she says and it’s molten iron against his skin. “Because-”


“It’s my life!” Luhan yells, leaning to her and with teeth bared and furious. Too long has he endured her overbearing nature, her endless control and superiority lorded over him all for the sake of giving him ‘the right path and direction.’ Fool of a human. “What reason do you have to have any say in my affairs? Who I am with and what I do with my life is of no concern of yours. You who have done nothing but paint this disfigured world around and expect me to live and tolerate you for all your lies and deceit.”


“I am your mother!” She shrieks, back rocketing to straight as her eyes flash in defiance but she is weak.


High cold and vindictive laughter swarms. she has always been weak. Cast her away. CAST THEM ALL AWAY. you have one place you belong. You belong with me, Luhan. you belong away from all of them, all of this. dispose of that which is inferior to you, all those which get in your way.


“A mother who does naught but despise and demean and demand, who doesn’t care, only greedily takes from her son, trying to force where his father, your repulsive excuse for a husband, so grievously failed to be anything but substandard.” Her breathing halts and Luhan is tempted to reach out and stop it forever. Watch the shock on her face as he shows her how much power he truly wields in comparison to what she has lorded over him his whole life. “Where I have done everything and moved so far beyond all expectation that you can no longer see me for your blindness and futility.”


“Luhan!” she screams, stepping forward and rearing herself to her full height.


pitiful.


“What!” he bellows, standing taller, stronger before her. Everything that he is in blatant view. “Or have I somehow disappointed you because I am able to fend for myself and display competency? Do you have so little faith in me that you must sneer and nitpick and break it down and try to shatter my will to live? You have failed and I have managed to still succeed despite the Hell which I have been through.”


Her eyes flicker, swimming in emotion that so rarely shows on her face that he cannot read it. don’t bother, she is feeble and insignificant.


"Luhan," his mother's voice is scathing, offended and Luhan doesn't give a shit. A small smirk comes over his lips, a sort of satisfaction at hearing his mother's indignancy at his final response to her constant nagging. She lets out a short breath. "Is this because you've been dealing with breaking up with Minseok?"


"Don't talk about him," rips from his mouth in a snarl before he can check his thoughts and his mind growls in anger. Flaring at the mention of the one who left him like he was nothing when he is everything. The last conversation ending in a shattering of machinery, ensuring that never again would he be plague by the vermin.


leave them all behind, you need none of them. you need only me, only us together, it is the perfect solution. Forsake the terrible and embrace the beautiful.


"I never liked him," his mother half whispers, her eyes bright as he looks at her son and Luhan's temper rages, his back rigid with fury. Shaking her head, she steps closer to him, her cheeks flushed with emphasis "You can do so much better tha-"


"SHUT UP," he yells, flinging out a hand violently and almost slamming into her if not for her stumbling back, tripping over her own feet pathetically.. "Shut up! You don't know anything! You never knew him! You never knew what we were. Never talk about him again." His throat burns as his fists clench and he bares down on his mother and hates.


“Stop it!” screams from her lesser form, looking up at him, always up not, he higher and stronger and nothing can stop him, nothing prevents him, her power broken. “Luhan, stop this now. You are being irrational. Control yourself.”


WHAT DOES SHE KNOW ABOUT CONTROL? thunders as the structures shake and the firmament is not compromised but made to be reconstructed.


Evolution is the destruction of one phase and point in life to make way for the progression into something better. Something whole.


us.


“I am in control!” Luhan yells back, arms extending to the side to hold up his world, in a gesture of himself, his life, himself, and the look that flashes over her face is not one of deprecation. It is awe, and fear, and revelation. “Is that not what you always wanted?”


With a roar, he moves and her scream shatters along the walls that bear witness to the final step as Luhan ascends to his rightful place as supreme.




◦❀◦





”Grief saps my strength, the sands of life are run, and in my early youth am I cut off; but death is not my bane – it ends my woe. – I would not death for this that is my love , as two united in a single soul would die as one.”





◦❀◦





The reflective surface of still water is all that can be the natural remedy and satisfaction for a world which lies in two realms, one whole and perfect and the opposite of the chaos in the other. The cosmos above hating and horrid, broken to the point of apocalypse and the shake of the firmament of life within is met with the cooling calm through the reflection, the smooth calm surface offering serenity and calm where it is absent on the primary side.


you are ready.


Ripped fabrics and garments litter the space from the portal to this residence, lingering up steps and over a floor that lies with crimson stains and which flow from marks littering up arms and over a chest open to the air. Brutal lesions against skin once pristine but which paint in various hues and patterns naturally created from the steady and exhilarated beating of the organ within him.


Glistening down the walls, shining from every surface, the steady drop from the faucets, the gentle pools and still waters wash over everything. From the shower which lies half broken, hands prints of vermilion and the splintered panes of glass, adding to the masterpiece which decorates himself. The slow ragged breaths are the heat, the reminder and with skin prickling in sensitivity, eyes shot with blood and glistening gaze into their match opposite.


A smile curves over his lips, shaking and desperate as the whole image before him, skin unmarred and unsullied is laid bare to his eyes and eyes lacking fatigue fill instead with warmth and the deepest affection.


my love, you have finally come to me.


“Yes,” just barely brushes past lips cracked and parched. Stinging over his skin where water and the cruel air seeps into the open fissures in his own skin, leaking his pulchritude to splatter to the floor. He coughs, the sound dry and feeble and all he wants, he needs, he yearns for, is to rest.


Hands pure and clean rise, his own eyes lingering to them as he watches and mimics them, his own with dark red caked under the nails and with gruesome rivulets and gouges taken from them. then come to me, pleads with a choke and a repressed sob of relief. I am here, I always have been, and I, unlike any one else, love you. you may have all of me, everything, forever. This cruel world that you have endured can end, this painful pursuit of love from those who you can never trust, who will only cause you pain, will end. His hands shake before the one he truly loves in the mirror, eyes which have always sought and begged to find, a heart crying out and rarely heard when he needed it most, finally finding salvation.


“Let me rest,” he pleads, knowing that this time, regardless of his words, his visage, his depiction, it is understood that though his tone may be weak, it is not because he is. There are no secrets here, only open honesty and he understands just as well as he is understood.


you may always rest with me. Eyes of his own shine in tears, not of remorse, but happiness and relief, arms stretched out to hold him, to have him, to embrace and never let go but hold until his last breath. this way, when you are with me, there will never be a time you need to fear to be alone, in any portion of your life. I will never put you in places too high to find solace, in areas where you fear being forgotten, for I will never forget you. I cannot, for I love you too much to do so.


His form trembles, shaking with the words and promises given to him and Luhan’s heart aches with the pain of an entire life of suffering to be with that love, the love which he sees and hears and so deeply needs. He knows what it is, has seen it and known it his whole life, and it is the answer.


you deserve the best, you are the best, and this is what you have been seeking.


“I know.”


He has always know, the fight seeming so futile now as he reaches out to lay damp and shaking fingers to glass, the final barrier and breathes into fall through and for the final barrier to give way.


All is calm, all is quiet around him save for the breathing that slips from his lips. The walls had stopped their whispering, the photos on the wall shredded to cease their judgment, and the life in the house absent and abandoned. There is nothing to interrupt them this time, nothing to stop this true love from finding it’s manifest.


come, Luhan. let us be forever together and let us move from this existence where we are separate to a place where we can be together, completely as two to one, united. I am always here for you, always, for I can and will never leave you as long as you are here. When you pass into the next world, when death reaches you, you shall never be alone. I will be with you. I am always with you.


The aching in his throat, burning, cripping and the horrific wheezing gasps as the surface beneath his fingers refuses to yield, to give to him and his need to pass through, to find happiness, to find his love. “I can’t,” sobs tragic and harsh from him as his fingers curl to fists.


One final step, one final phase and forever the struggle ends, his aching heart put to rest and his tortured soul laid given respite from the abuse inflicted.


To be loved, to find love, to receive that which he has so yearned for for longer than he can ever bare to think of.


Luhan, my love.


Curled fists as his composure falters and his grief displays over him, back bending under the weight as he pushes, forces and yet the barrier does not give in to him. Gasping rather than breathing, his self no longer able to sustain when he is so distraught.


“I’m trying.”


Harder, push harder and harder and sink through the barrier like he has before, wanting so desperately to intertwine like he has seen before in dreams and in reflections where it is two and not one. Always on the other side, he must get to the other side.


Luhan, my dear you are almost there I am waiting I have always been waiting. please come to me, please let us be in love.


A shake as the barrier does not give.


are you not tired of waiting too? Shining eyes and an anguished face as it paws for him, hands pressed flat and forcing to him as well, yearning just as strong.


I need, I pine, I shall perish if there is more delay.


The final step and he cannot cross it.


“I can’t!”


Then Break It Down.


A strangled yell as the pounding of flesh to glass and shaking the reflection warps and unbalances and brings forth the final catalyst of his fate. Rising in pitch as his muscles and the tears over his skin protest in suffering, a scream rings around the tiled room, the tainted red sloshing at his feet as his balance commits and with an almighty crash, it all shatters to fragmented splinters.


All of it, broken and cracked and scattered into pieces as new impaled fractures imbed into his hands, his eyes wide and heart shuddering as he looks upon the vanished lover and the destruction laid before him.


“NO!” wails in lament as the final salvation is denied and his comfort is terminated. The mirror and himself and his love, the beautiful vision of his perfection and his lover, the only one who could truly love him and he could truly love, taken from him by the cruel twist of fate. “No! Please, no,” broken and miserable crawls from his aching throat, the tension and horror imbedded there clawing to be set free as the new impalements ooze in a new coloring of the tapestry he has spattered around him.


my love, gasps into him new life and hope as his spine twists and snaps, legs nearly giving out as the system begins to shut down, vision fading to the mix of blurring black sands and darkness and the start contrasting walls of the room he has barricaded himself to for final sanction. my love, mourn not for I promised I will never leave you and neither shall I. I am here, I will not go. The whisper over him has his eyes slipping closed in relief.


you know what you must to.


Half deadened eyes open to the floor, the fragments of the mirror previously before him all reflections of himself under the water which covers the floor and with trembling hands, he rises one to himself.


see? Tears streak down that gorgeous face, tears that he has never cried but which he has wanted to, need to for so long but never found safety to do so. With love, there is no judgment for weeping. I have not forsaken you. we can still be together. with one final step, we can be as we should have always been. break the barrier.


“I did,” he whispers.


you know which barrier I speak of, softens around him, warmth and compassion and love sinking into him and pulling him forward, his fingertips running along the sharp jagged edge of the mirror shard in his hands as his lover and himself watches from the other side, waiting to connect with him completely. the final step where we merge worlds, drawing your beautiful crimson with my diamonds and shining for all eternity. His hands shake, the end so near. please, Luhan, let yourself be free.


The hideous tightness in his throat, needing to be lessened, to be cut free so he can breathe, clogging all his emotions and life there and keeping it from liberation.


I am here with you, presses to his heart and Luhan’s eyes close as his fingers rise and draw over the walls which pound and trap him in this horrific state.


The screams gargle and fade as the world swims in black and red and white, spiraling down and he curls into himself, the disconnect too strong and violently convulsing before arms pull and wrap around skin too sensitive to touch. Crying out, he fights but cool and comforting lips press to his heated skin and still the intensity, a shivering linger the result as soft gentile hands that are the most perfect he knows travel unseen through the blackness.


Luhan’s eyes open, looking into the bright vision of the one he loves, perfect smile upon perfect lips and tears that he finds spilling down his own face the first time he can let them without fear. My love relievedly weeps as devoted and loving hands wrap to him and pull him in, accepting for everything and all and the cool slip of his own relieved tears sets him at peace.


and thus you may rest




◦❀◦





“I never loved another person the way I loved myself.”― Mae West





◦❀◦






“Have you thought about it?”


He looks up, blinking at the question and feeling slightly dazed. “Thought about what?”


“What you’re afraid of.” A pen stills on the paper, waiting patiently as his mind slips in and out of focus, the tiny tendrils of thought bleeding and twining together in a dance that he can’t follow.


“Dying.”


“Dying?” repeats back, a small hint of surprise on the lilting voice.


“Yes,” he replies, mind on the dark red that seeps into the white plush carpet as eyes turn to glass, forlorn and empty, never to see again. “Dying alone. I never want to die alone.”


“Do you fear being alone?”


Blink, too slow and the world tilts on it’s axis, the floor spinning up to the side as the balance of gravity is overthrown. “I’m never alone,” he speaks and two voices sound as his eyes fall closed, the mist lingering just at the peripherals of his mind descending and drawing him into blackness.




◦❀◦





“As in the flame the yellow way, or as the hoar-frost melts in the early morning, ‘neath the genial sun; so did he pine away, by love consumed, and slowly wasted by a hidden flame.”





◦❀◦ Fin ◦❀◦





AN: For those of you that managed to get through this whole thing, I applaud you. I could not have done this without the amazing support of my friends. This was a huge project and took a lot of work and I couldn’t have done it without you. To Frances, who held my hand through basically all of this, and helped me beta and plough through rough segments, I could not have done this without you. To Kitten and Kendra, who were the best cheerleaders, Ang, who always is a huge support, Annie for her encouragement, my Annie who literally kept me sane when I got lost, and all the others who were such an amazing support for me, I owe you more than my thanks.


The old quotes are taken from Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ about the story of Narcissus and Echo.


The segment on ‘I am here for you’ is in reference from the ‘Teachings on Love’ by Thich Nhat Hahn.
drainbamage954: Cat in blankets (Hey guise)
Not to Notice.
Kris/Luhan
PG-13
46K

Summary:  All Yifan ever wanted was for the star soccer player in the university to know who he was and, you know, remember his name and possibly hold hands maybe.  That’s all.

Yifan frowns pointedly across the table at his friend who just gives him one of those ‘well’ looks over his calculus homework. . .  )